Summary of the Two Little Soldiers
This short story "Two Little Soldiers" is a bizarre dramatic triangular love story that has been ended with a tragic incident. Here in this story, we find jealousy, betrayal, romantic love with change, discontent as well as mental conflict. The milkmaid has created enmity between two friends. She has become the main cause of Jean's fall down.
'Two Little Soldiers' is a triangular tragic love story with an unexpected twist written by French writer, Guy de Maupassant. In the story we find two soldiers, Luc and Jean, falling in love with a dairymaid. They were in the same barracks. It was their pleasure to take a walk to a particular place in a nearby jungle, carrying some food. The place reminded them of their home. They used to take their lunch, talk, and return back to their barracks, every Sunday. Once, they noticed a milkmaid who had to walk by them to milk her cow. Though they had never talked with her, it was a matter of pleasure for them to watch her in that way.
One Sunday she talked and gave them some milk. The following Sunday they came with candy for her as a gift, which she ate happily. Following the same activity the next day, the two friends started to wait for her every Sunday.
One Tuesday something unusual took place. Luc took leave from the barracks and went out, and returned at about ten at night. Neither he told anything to Jean, nor Jean could know the reason behind it. The following Friday too, Luc borrowed some money from one friend and took leave for several hours.
Next Sunday, when the two friends were on their usual visit to their favourite place, Luc seemed disturbed and his behaviour seemed changed. Although Jean couldn't understand exactly, he suspected something vaguely, but nothing was clear. Soon the girl came. When she came nearer, this day Luc got up and went near her. They both hugged and kissed each other without taking any notice of Jean. Then they went from there. They stopped and milked the cow and leaving the pail, they disappeared into the woods. Jean was upset and heartbroken by this event.
After some time the two returned back, hand in hand, and after kissing Luc again she went from there. When the two friends were returning from there, like every Sunday, they stopped at the bridge. Jean leaned over the railings and suddenly dropped down in the river, and drowned. Thus he committed suicide. Luc was left stupefied and shocked at this sudden happening.
Pointwise Breakdown of the 'Two Little Soldiers'
The Two Little Soldiers: In this story, we find two French soldiers Luc Le Ganidec and Jean Kerderen were comrades in the same barracks. It was their pleasure to spend their Sundays out in the countryside. There they used to relax from their week-long load.
Their Routine Walk: This weekly journey through the countryside had almost become a ritual for them. Every Sunday they used to make the same journey across the beautiful countryside. On their journey, they used to make several little stops at various towns and villages. Finally, they used to reach at their resting ground in the woods. Every time they followed the same route, visiting the same towns and stopping at the same landmarks.
The Bond Between Two Friends: The two friends had a very good bonding. On the way to their picnic spot, most of the time they used to keep quiet. Neither of them opened up their emotions. They used to be quiet and passive and never shared much thought. But the bond was such that they used to understand each other.
The Dairy Maid and the Soldiers' Gazing: Gradually their weekly ritual included a bit of looking and gazing at a young village girl. They noticed that a certain dairymaid used to walk past there. Although they never spoke to her, they used to be just glad to see her.
Finally, They Talked: One Sunday, however, she came near and talked to them. Next Sunday she talked with them. Not only that, she even gave them some milk while returning from the pasture. Following Sunday they brought candy for her. But when the girl arrived, they were too sigh to tell her about it at first. As usual, she gave them some milk that day also. Thus their meeting and talking were getting a continuity every Sunday.
They Miss her the Whole Week: Now they started to miss her all through the whole week. They often spoke about her. The following Sunday she sat with them for a longer time. They talked to each other about their places and different incidents. Soon they started to share their lunch too.
The Uncharacteristic Move: One Tuesday something unusual happened to Luc. He asked for leave from the barracks and returned only at about ten at night. His friend Jean thought about it deeply but couldn't find out any explanation for it. Again on Friday, Luc borrowed some money from his friend and left the barracks for several hours. He didn't tell anything about it, Jean. Such had never happened. Jean was too worried.
Luc's Changed Behaviour: The following Sunday, when the two friends were on their own usual walk to the woods, Luc's behaviour was changed. It was strange, changed.
The Girl Appears: Both friends sat and had their lunch together at the usual place. Soon the girl appeared. But something new and unusual happened. As she came nearer, Luc got up and went towards her. They had a kiss. Then she sat beside and started to talk, completely ignoring Jean.
Shocked Jean: Jean was completely shocked at the new behaviour of his friend. His mind was upset and heartbroken. He was not even looking at them. Now he understood why Luc had gone out twice a week. He felt a deep pain due to the treachery of his friend. He wanted to weep, to run away, to hide somewhere, and never to see them.
Luc and the Girl Making Love: Soon Luc and the girl went off to attend to the cow. They milked it and then disappeared in the woods and made love there. Then they came back. They kissed again and she went from there nodding carelessly to Jean.
The Tragic End: Then the two friends sat side by side. They didn't speak. They got up at the usual time and started to return back to their barracks. As usual, they stopped on the bridge. There Jean leaned over the railing farther and farther, and before Luc could understand anything, Jean dropped in the river. Thus he ended his life by committing suicide.
Key Points of the Story Two Little Soldiers
The two friends Luc and Jean were comrades in the same barracks. They were at war for a long time, so they were homesick.
They had made it a ritual to visit and have a picnic lunch at a particular place in the woods, which was peaceful and reminded them of their homes.
There they met a girl, who was a dairymaid.
They started meeting her every Sunday.
They both fell in love in love with her. But they never talked about this topic.
Suddenly one week, Luc met the girl on two occasions in secret taking leave from the barracks. But he didn't tell anything about it to his friend Jean.
It was only the next Sunday, Jean discovered the relationship between Luc and the girl. They made love and walked away together without paying any attention to him (Jean).
He was much troubled and disturbed by his friend's treachery and unfaithfulness.
Later, while returning back to the barracks, he committed suicide by throwing himself in the river.
Exercise of Two Little Soldiers
Understanding the Text
Why do the two soldiers spend their free time on Sundays away from the barracks out in the countryside?
Answer: The two friends stayed in the barracks away from their home. They often felt homesick. So every Sunday, they used to leave their barracks, and visit a peaceful place that reminded them of their home.
Why does the girl become the topic of conversation for these soldiers?
Answer: The two friends and the girl became more and more intimate. She even started to share their lunch. So, she occupied a place in their hearts. Even in the barracks, they remembered her and spoke of her.
Why does deception enter into their friendship?
Answer: Deception entered into friendship because of the dairymaid. Unfortunately, both friends fell in love with her. But before Jean could understand his newfound love properly, Luc moved and won her love. This was the way deception entered into their friendship.
Do you think Luc was a betrayer?
Answer: The answer to this is open to audiences. Some people think that he was a betrayer, whereas some others think he was not.
I think he was the betrayer. Had his heart been clear, he would have told his friend about his two visits. He knew that his friend would not like it. Further, even on the last day, when they were on their usual visit to the jungle, he didn't open his heart to Jean. Thus from the very beginning, we find him keeping his friend in dark about his developed relationship with the girl. This is enough to think that he was a betrayer.
What is the cause of suicide Jean? Do you think that it was the only release of his love?
Answer: There is not a single cause of the tragic event. His suicide is the outcome of several emotions. On the surficial level, he commits suicide because of his friend's betrayal. He was hurt by the way Luc kept him in dark about the whole thing. He was also hurt by the way Luc and the girl behaved before him, totally ignoring him. He felt he had lost his friend forever. Finally, as he could not release his emotions by talking about it to Luc, he released it by committing suicide.
Reference to the Context
What is the central theme of the story?
Answer: The central theme of this story is the conflict between friendship and love. It is about the incompatibility of friendship and romantic love. When two friends fall in love with the same girl, friendship can not survive and it ends in tragic circumstances.
"What are you doing here? Are you watching the grass grow?"
1. Who is the speaker?
Answer: The milkmaid is the speaker.
2. What does the word "here" indicate?
Answer: "Here" means on the ground full of grass.
3. Who does "you" refer to?
Answer: "You" refers to the two friends.
"He leaned--he--he was leaning--so far over--that his head carried him away --and--he--fell--he--fell----"
1. Who is the speaker?
Answer: Luc is the speaker.
2. Question Why is the speaker speaking with an interruption?
Answer: He is speaking with interruption because he is extremely shocked, scared and panicked at the sudden and unbelievable event, and words are not coming out easily.
What does he mean when he says "he--fell--he fell---"?
Answer: He is narrating the event to perhaps his senior. By these broken sentences perhaps he is narrating the slow-motion in which Jean left the bridge and dropped in the river.
Two Little soldiers can be viewed as a series of dramatic scenes. Describe the story as a tragedy.
Answer: Although the action of the story appears to continue, we can find a series of dramatic scenes in this story. The writer has brought this effect by changing points of view. The point of view changes as the scenes change. In the beginning, we find a third-person omniscient point of view, where the writer gives us simple information. This works mostly as an orientation part of the story.
Then comes another scene, when Luc goes on leave on two occasions up to the two friends go to the woods last time, girl's arrival and the behaviour of Luc and the girl. Here there is a limited point of view, which presents Jean's point of view. The final scene is when the two friends return back to the barracks. Here we find Luc's point of view leading up to the tragedy. Here readers are not given any information about Jean's feelings. (Story as a tragedy) Traditionally a tragedy depends upon human suffering. It is when some terrible or sorrowful events befall (strike) the main character. Loosely telling, it is related to the misfortune of the character.
Here, in this case, tragedy occurs because of the sudden discovery of the relationship of Luc and the girl and their behaviour became so unbearable for Jean that he could not carry it up to the barracks, and takes away his own life. In conclusion, we can say that a strong internal conflict led the event to tragedy.
What is the setting and style of the story?
Answer: The setting of the story is the French countryside, near the town of Courbevoie. It has a pastoral surrounding. The scene is so peaceful and wonderful. Maupassant is known for his realistic style of writing. But he doesn't follow all its principles of realistic writing strictly. We find the same in this story too. Unlike the principles of realism, the writer has changed points of view in this story, which has helped him to bring the tragedy more effectively.
How would you describe the conflict between your friends?
Answer: The central issue of this story is the conflict between friendship and love. Like any love triangle in this story too love brings conflict between two friends. Both of them fall in love with the same girl. But it goes unexpressed. They don't talk about this topic. So neither of them has any knowledge of the other's love with the girl.
Luc's unusual move (taking leave) sows the seeds of conflict between the two. At the end, the behaviour of the girl and Luc hit the final nail. Jean was so overwhelmed that he could not overcome it and finally took his own life. If the two friends had ever talked about their love, this tragedy would not have taken place.
Reference Beyond the Context
Is good to have a conflict between friendship and love? Is it morally good that a person and his best friend can love the same person?
Answer: No, it is good to have conflicts between friendship and love. These two are entirely different things, which should never be meshed up. In fact, there should be no type of conflict in friendship. Friends are important in life. If friends positively affect our emotional well being, conflict in them often brings stress and frustration, sometimes leading up to death as in the case of these two friends.
No, it is morally not good that a person and his best friend should love the same person.
How would you describe triangular love?
Answer: Many fictions depend on the theme of a love triangle. It is usually a romantic relationship involving three people. In a love triangle, there are two people who compete against each other for the undivided attention of a single interest. In most of these, there is competition and jealousy between the two suitors one of which wins the love.
In Two Little Soldiers, there are two friends and a dairymaid. Both the friends fall in love with her. But more than jealousy or competition, there is an information gap between the two friends. As they never talked about their love, none of them had any knowledge about the other's love. This is the main reason that Luc took the move and won her love.