Study Guide

Bellefleur

by Joyce Carol Oates

Bellefleur Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Jean Pierre Bellefleur, banished from his native France and cast out by his father, a duke, settles in the Lake Noir region of the United States in the mid-1700’s and becomes a powerful force in the area. Notorious for his drinking, gambling, and shady business deals, Jean Pierre is impeached from Congress during his second term for scandal and corruption. When his wife, Hilda, flees his house, to the neighbors’ horror, he brings an Onondagan Indian woman, Antoinette, to live with him.

His son Louis marries Germaine O’Hagan, a local woman, and has three children with her. Louis’s family lives with Jean Pierre, and Louis participates in the family businesses with a disregard for the law that equals that of his father.

Jedediah Bellefleur, the less business-minded son, goes off to live in the nearby mountains to prove to himself that he can survive there for a year. The years begin to multiply, and Jedediah does not return. He becomes a hermit, religiously zealous, suspicious of the occasional trappers and hunters he encounters on the mountain, and paranoid that his family will have him forcibly removed back to their home. His mission is to see the face of God.

After nineteen years on the mountain, Jedediah is persuaded to return to his family home; Jean Pierre, Louis, Antoinette, and Louis’s children were brutally murdered by vengeful neighbors. Only Germaine survived the midnight raid on the family home. In order to keep the family name alive, Jedediah marries Germaine and they have three children, including Raphael, who dedicates himself to building the family fame and fortune.

In addition to running for governor and losing three times, helping to found the Republican Party in the area, and creating a hops empire from nothing, Raphael builds Bellefleur Manor, a mammoth, Gothic castle that dominates the landscape in the Lake Noir region. There Raphael entertains numerous politicians, including senators, Supreme Court justices, a vice president, and dignitaries from overseas. He...

(The entire section is 833 words.)