The Return of Martin Guerre Essay

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The Return of Martin Guerre

Historian Natalie Zemon Davis wrote an informative novel about the lives of peasants in the sixteenth century. Entitled
The Return of Martin Guerre, Davis tells a true story about a law suit against a man claiming to be someone he is not. She familiarizes the reader with peasantry, laws, and moral attitudes of the time. The story begins in 1527 with a family move from the French
Basque country to the village of Artigat. There the Daguerre family settled and started a tileworks business; a prosperous business in the sixteenth century. They eventually started businesses in wheat, millet, vines, and sheep. To be accepted in the new town the family had to make some changes such as speaking
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Bertrande was left with the burdens of being a single mother for the next eight years, until Martin returned, or so she thought. In 1556 a peasant from a French village called Sajas was traveling, possibly leaving town to avoid punishment for a small crime, when he encountered two men mistaking him for a man they called 'Martin Guerre.'; The peasant was in fact not Martin, but a man by the name of Arnaud du Tilh. Arnaud soon learned that his resemblance to the Guerre man was uncanny, although believe it or not, Martin was taller, thinner, and a bit darker in skin tone.
We learn that people of the sixteenth century determine how they look by what other people tell them because mirrors were not found in a peasant household. Arnaud decided to memorize as much as he could about Martin and try to take over his life because he learned that Martin had a large inheritance from his father. He informed himself about Martin's situation, his family, and the things he used to say and do. After educating himself about the man he was going to pose as, Arnaud let the word spread that, 'Martin Guerre is back.';
This worked in his favor because when he did arrive people were predisposed to perceive him as the missing Martin Guerre, whether he looked like him or not. It was his compelling words and precise memories that confirmed it was the

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