Book Review of "The Return of Martin Guerre" Essay

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In The Return of Martin Guerre, one man's impersonation of an heir from an influential peasant family in the French village of Artigat ultimately leads to his public execution. The tale of Arnaud du Tilh alias Pansette (meaning "the belly") is full of ironies, not the least of which is his death at the hands of a man who by some accounts harbored some admiration for the quick-witted peasant. Set in a time and place where a hardly discernible line separated proper behavior from that which was grounds for death, du Tilh was guilty of more than one serious charge. Yet he was well-known as a strong farmer, loving husband, shrewd rural-merchant, and eloquent speaker. Arnaud's actions are not the result of his own audacity, rather of…show more content…
Du Tilh knew he had the intelligence to pull it off, and his old life was not holding him back. There are a few plausible reasons as to why Arnaud wanted a new identity, but why did he go as far as he did in his impersonation? For one, Guerre's inheritance was larger, but did he happen to know that when his role began? What started for du Tilh as a simple act of cleverness evolved into an elaborate charade, a chance to start an entirely new life. Du Tilh didn't only want money, he wanted a fresh start, a chance to put his skills to good use and force a path for himself. "Pansette was moving beyond the mask of the carnival player and the stratagems of the mere inheritance seeker to forge a new identity and a new life for himself in the village on the Leze." The thought of a family, as well as a decent inheritance must have sounded good to the peasant from Sajas. However, the thought of duping an entire village must have been even more tempting to the prankster Pansette. During his trial at Toulouse, his suspicion of conjuring spirits to aid his deception came to the fore. "The accused seemed to have an air of magic about him. Trying to take him off guard, President de Mansencal asked him how he had invoked the evil spirit that taught him so much about the people of Artigat. Coras said he paled and for once hesitated... This reaction, I think, may have resulted not only from the defendant's sense of danger, but also from anger
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