Bertrande de Rols

Wordle by Elaine

Wordle by James

 Yr 11 Literature Homework Task, 22 August, 2011

Your homework tonight is to read the all the quotes tonight in your Student Notes about Bertrande and her ambivalence.

Then, write ‘the perfect paragraph’ about how Lewis uses Bertrande as a vehicle through which to explore some of the key ideas and concerns of the text.

Post your paragraph under ‘Leave a Reply’.

  1. sarahlouisemudie

    As Bertrande understands “more than ever […] her position in the household”(pg 20), she realises that she is living in an age where women have no rights, thoughts or opinions. The mere thought of speaking out against a husband or man of authority was strongly frowned upon. Lewis uses Bertrande to show the injustice of the age she was living in towards women, that “she has a greed of authority, and of money” (pg 63) simply because she spoke out against an impostor. She was called “mad”(pg 47) and “demented”(pg 43) for believing the truth that she felt was right, Bertrande was told to stop speaking out because she was not meant to question authority.

    • hey Sarah – what do you think is Bertrande’s view of the patriarchal system? what do you think is Janet Lewis’ view?

  2. reneecolonparentheses

    In her novel, “The Wife of Martin Guerre”, Janet Lewis depicts the doomed life of a woman in the patriarchal feudal system through Bertrande de Rols’ position as a female and her defiance against it. Lewis’ narrative comes solely through the thoughts of Bertrande, creating an empathy in the reader. These thoughts reflect how, from birth, Bertrande was to be imprisoned by marriage decided without her consent and “not known until the evening before” (pg 6). Bertrande is also portrayed to develop a false sense of security with Martin believing “Martin belonged to her” (pg 19) which, however, creates a heavier impact of the Martin’s desertion. Lewis’ detail into the reflections of Bertrande emphasises for the inner turmoil of her love and hatred, dismissed as insanity by the rest of society. This disregard for women is embodied through the return of Martin who places Bertrande as “answerable for the dishonour that has befallen [him]” (pg 91). Lewis thus resolves her novel with no “further record of Bertrande de Rols” (pg 93) leaving readers with society’s scorn for a woman’s humanity.

    • ‘which, however, creates a heavier impact of the Martin’s desertion’? (oops! 🙂 )

      ‘leaving readers with society’s scorn for a woman’s humanity’ – which society? this statement needs a little refining

      Otherwise, a really strong effort, reneecolonparentheses 🙂

  3. Bertrande de Rols, was pleased that her husband had returned but was burdened with the unspoken truth that he might not be who he claimed he was, Janet Lewis delves into the question, whether it is right to follow your beliefs, or succumb to the influence of others and just go along with what they say. Even though Bertrande was happy with her husband, even though he was kinder to her, and more gentle, she would not allow herself to sin against God, she was accountable to God, even though everyone else was accountable to their community. Her hatred for ‘Martin’ grows as she soon comes to terms with that he has forced her to sin, even though she would’ve been pleased if it wasn’t forbidden. ‘leaving the love which she rejected because it was forbidden, and the love which had rejected her”
    Lewis leaves the reader with the question, is it better to follow your beliefs, and your morals, or is it better to succumb to those around you, and adapt to their way of thinking.

  4. In “The Wife of Maritn Guerre,” by Janet Lewis, Bertrande de Rols struggles with the truth. Lewis uses the character to explore this theme, showing how easy it is to decieve oneself. At first Bertrande accepts “the new Martin Guerre” (p45), although with some doubt, but as time passes the worry increases. In the end, “she marvelled that she could have permitted herself to be deceived” on this matter. (p63) But when she declares the truth, no-one believes her, accusing her of madness. But she realises that she is “imposed upon, deceived, betrayed into adultery, but not mad.

    Another theme is that her love and respect, for the community, for Martin, and for the man who returns. She is torn between her respect for the community, her sense of justice, and her love. The priest recognises that she has not “ceased entirely to love him.” (p72) But despite the fact that Bertrande’s disbelief will seperate her from her community and family, she continues to seek the truth.

    • mrshirschfield

      Some good ideas here, vortexofwisdom. It would be great to see you develop your comments about what you believe is Lewis’ position on these ideas ie your interpretive framework or what you believe to be the central messages of the text about these ideas …

  5. Stephen Catros

    In the novella ‘Wife of Martin Guerre’, Janet Lewis employs Bertrande de Rols’ characters to explicitly depict the overtly patriarchal country that 16th century France was. Lewis hence represents the firm views and values were held at this time. Bertrande additionally represents the difficulty in choosing between herself and the community; in other words, going against her morals and values to ultimately keep the community in good stead.

    • mrshirschfield

      Hey Stephen – it would be really helpful for you to elaborate on ‘the firm views and values … held at the time’. What were the dominant views and values held at the time and place the text was set? And what are Bertrande’s specific morals and values? Some further development would provide a stronger foundation for your interpretation and upcoming close analysis work 🙂

  6. In Janet Lewis’ “The Wife of Martin Guerre” Bertrande de Rols desperation to prove to the community, (and even herself), that her husband is not the real Martin Guerre, consequently causes society to looked down upon her as a “mad” (pg 47) and demented woman, who is being rebellious and outspoken. Bertrande adamantly denies that she is mad, and claims she is “imposed upon, deceived, betrayed into adultery, but not mad.” In the end, though Bertrande is ultimately correct that her husband is not “truly Martin Guerre” (pg 72), she is still shunned by the community and the real Martin Guerre who “had rejected her” (pg 92) because of the adulterous sin she had committed.

    • hey rachel, you’ve provided some good summary 🙂 Can you now expand this to show how Bertrande is used by Lewis as a vehicle through which to express her authorial position on some of the key ideas you’ve alluded to?

  7. Betrande de Rols, a women whose life was already laid out for her at the age of 11, was a women of immense strength living in a time when females had no voice in their homes or communities. “She knows her duty, but is also capable of exceptional leadership and actions that reflect her inner strength of character” (‘When Duty Calls’ by Ross Huggard). This statement is an accurate description of Betrande’s character and the internal struggle she must face to either conform to the pre-modern era views of the community or be shunned along with her son. Janet Lewis uses Betrande’s character to convey the decision one must make with standing up for something that you believe in or going along with the crowd because that’s the easy option.

  8. Through the novel, Bertrande de Rols demonstrates through her role as wife, daughter-in-law, and mother, the inner turmoil caused by the dilemma of changes perspectives on God, honesty and a woman’s place. Society of Bertrande’s time, had shifted from a God-based accountability, and an absolute view of truth, to a community based accountability with a relative view of truth. When faced with the possibility that she has sinned against her husband and God, Bertrande rebels against social norms and fights desperately to make herself right in the eyes of God. However, through these acts, she puts her family and community to shame, and tarnishes their joy at the return of Martyn. It is through Bertrande’s efforts to make herself right, not in the eyes of men, but God, that she becomes a vehicle for the author’s ideas.

  9. ‘Her function is her identity’- The perfect statement to describe Lewis’ view on social roles and expectations in the 16th century such as women being virtual slaves to their husband and their households. Bertrandes’ tradgedy represents a classic moral dillema as she has to fight between staying with a pre-modernist view or shifting to a more mordenist era, challenging the audience in Lewis’ era to reflect on the choices made between moral obligations and the legal system. Lewis’ also strongly exploits the ever-changing battle between self truth and the truth found in faith and religion with Bertrandes’ battle against the cure.

  10. Bertrande is a perfect representation of the battle between Moral obligations and the rigid constraints of legal justice that rages in man’s mind. Bertrande is presented with a dilemma, which inevitably leads her to instigate her own self-destruction. Does she attempt to ignore the notion that ‘Martin’ is an imposter in exchange for the well being and happiness of her household, which is her moral obligation? Or does abide by what’s ‘right’ in the eyes of God and the Legal system, which is her legal obligation? This fear of God and the law torments Bertrande and leads her to forfeit her own happiness.

  11. Bertrande is a woman who is trapped in the male-dominated society of the 16th century. Women of the times were considered property of men, and to speak out against them would be considered as a challenge against authority. But in the novel by Janet Lewis has Bertrande doing just that. Bertrande remains unshaken in her belief and commitment to do the right thing by God, even though everyone else in the community is unable to see through Arnaud’s deceptive facade. For Bertrande to accuse her own husband of such a crime would be considered deplorable in this society, and even though there was a chance that she was right, what she believed ‘was only the truth for [her]’ (pg 73). Lewis has used Bertrande as a sole contender for the absolute truth, and portrays her as the heroine of the novel. To stand up for what she believed in took great courage, especially when even those closest to her have pronounced ‘mad’ (pg 62). At the end, though proved correct in her beliefs, Bertrande remains victim to the patriarchal society manipulated by men for their own gains.

  12. The novel ” The Wife of Martin Guerre” communicates the underlying concept of gender inequality, set in the appropriate 16th century, patriarchal feudal system. The tale of the tragic heroine, Bertrande de Rols depicts what actual accountability to God looks like, as opposed to being bound by the community, as shown by her determination to stay true to her God and her conscience, despite her inevitable excommunication from her community and loved ones as a consequence. Janet Lewis manipulates the post modern mindset of her readers to convey a major commonality of society of the 16th century, the inferiority of women and their low positions in the community. Bertrande’s experiences is an accurate representation of how a woman would be treated given such circumstances, providing a vehicle for the author to portray her thoughts in an engaging manner. Bertrande’s eventual fate of eternal unhappiness and social exclusion highlights the severity of the consequences of staying true to yourself, challenging the authors audience to speculate on their own convictions.

  13. tootiredformyowngood

    Sorry I’m so late, but my internet has been playing up…

    In “The Wife of Martin Guerre”, Janet Lewis portrays a society so stricken by love for a man, that they forget the existence of a woman and the quest for absolute truth. Lewis places her character Bertrande de Rols, rather named “The Wife of Martin Guerre” for her lack of importance in 16th century French society, into a position where she must decide whether the absolute truth (and hence her relationship with God), love, or the community’s well being is of the greatest importance. After bearing countless inner turmoils, Bertrande makes the decision to follow the truth to the end, hence ostracising herself from her family and community, destroying her own happiness and exhausting her soul. Lewis leaves the reader with a feeling of admiration for Bertrande’s self-sacrificial courage and honour, challenging the reader to speculate as to what their own actions would be.

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