All the French characters in the story express hostility toward the Prussians. Berthine shows this attitude most clearly: “Blind anger rose in her heart against the prisoners; she would have been only too glad to kill them all, and so silence them.” In addition, the soldiers find the potential drowning of the enemies funny and cheer as water is pumped into the cellar. From the French characters’ points of view, the enemy soldiers aren’t human.
In contrast, the narrator shows the Prussians to be more complex than the French characters in the story assume. Unlike the other characters in his story, the Prussian soldiers are shown to be very human, and the portrayal of them is quite sympathetic. For example, the Prussian officer has no reason to keep Berthine and her mother alive after getting into the house, yet he keeps his promise of not harming them: “They had placed their rifles and helmets in a corner and waited for supper, as well behaved as children on a school bench.” The narrator also shows the Prussians as being vulnerable, human, and innocent: “Never mind,” replied the soldier, who seemed a decent sort of fellow. “We won’t do you any harm, but you must give us something to eat. We are nearly dead with hunger and fatigue.”
The characters see the Franco-Prussian conflict in a black and white way, but the narrator shows that the whole issue is complex and describes good and bad on both sides.