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The central question at the heart of Natalie Zemon Davis’s The Return of Martin Guerre is focused on identity: what capacity did peasants like Bertrande and Martin have to live life according to their sense of self? Davis suggests that each of the three main figures (Arnaud, Bertrande and Martin) had an idea of the kind of life they’d like to live and then used what was available to make that happen. They sought opportunity, took advantage of chance, and deceived those around them. Robert Finlay suggests, in argument with Davis, that such calculation should not be attributed to Bertrande. That as a woman alive in the late Middle Ages, Bertrande would not have though about questions of identity as Davis suggests.

In a short essay (2-3 pages) compare and contrast the arguments that Davis and Finlay make about Bertrande’s involvement in the deception. What does Davis argue about Betrande’s role? How does Finlay refute that? What’s Davis’s response to the refutation? Finally, using evidence from the book and articles, make an argument about your position.

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