Mother Savage takes place in Virelogne during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The narrator retells the story behind the ruins of a thatched cottage. At thirty-three years of age, Mother Savage’s son volunteered in the war (on the French side), leaving his mother alone. Mother Savage lived alone in her cottage until the Prussians came one day. Since she was known to have money, she had to take four of them. They seemed to be good boys. Since they saw Mother Savage was an elder lady, they showed consideration toward her and helped with as much as they could. She fed them and treated them well even though they were the enemy and her own son was fighting against them. One day she asked them if they know where the French regiment was, since her son was in the 23rd of the line. The Prussians said they knew nothing.
After one month of living with those four soldiers, Mother Savage received a letter. In this letter she was informed of her son Victor’s death in detail. She did not shed a tear at first. She was too stunned by the news. Bloody images of her Victor’s death ran through her mind. Never again would she be able to kiss her only child. Victor’s life had been taken away similar to his father who was killed by the police. Shortly after reading the letter, the Prussians came home and she greeted them as if nothing had happened. In her mind, she had already planned a way to get revenge on the Prussians for her son’s death. She set her own cottage on fire after the four Prussians fell asleep. When the police came, Mother Savage told them exactly what had happened. Then, she handed the German police a piece of paper with the four Prussians names and addresses so that they could contact their families about what happened. Mother Savage did not regret what she did. The German police went ahead and killed her on the spot.
In Mother Savage we can see violence throughout the story. First of all, it takes place during the Franco-Prussian War. Violence is very significant in this story, not only because of the war, but since it is used as retaliation for the death of a loved one. Mother Savage received a heart-breaking letter informing her of Victor’s death:
This letter has a sad story to tell you. Your boy Victor was killed yesterday by a cannonball, which cut him practically in two. I was right there when it happened, for we stood next to each other in line and he was always talking to me about you so that I could let you know at once if he had any bad luck.
I took his watch out of his pocket to bring to you when the war is over.