Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Charles Demailly (shahrl deh-mah-YEE), a writer. Burdened with a loneliness and a super-sensitivity that make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to find satisfaction in real life, he falls in love with an ingenue, Marthe Mance, and endows her with the perfection of which he has always dreamed. When, by her shallowness, insincerity, and cruel treatment, she finally destroys his image of her, his creativity is also destroyed, and he sinks into apathy and, finally, into madness.
Marthe Mance (mahrt mahns), an actress and Charles Demailly’s wife, who is endowed by her husband with qualities of perfection which, in reality, she has never possessed. Enchanted at first by her husband’s play, in which she is the idealized heroine, she begins to show her shallowness and insincerity when the production is unfavorably criticized and she fears for her own success as its leading lady. Step by step, she then destroys Charles’s image of her until she has destroyed the man himself.
Nachette (nah-SHEHT) and
Couturat (kyew-too-RAH) , writers for Scandal, a journal that thrives on gossip, superficial aesthetic criticism, and sensationalism.
Chavannes (shah-VAHN), Charles Demailly’s boyhood friend, who encourages him in his efforts at serious writing.
Remonville (ruh-mohn-VEEL), a writer and Charles Demailly’s friend.
Boisroger (bwah-roh-ZHAY), a poet who introduces Charles Demailly to a circle of serious artists.
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Translated by Willard Trask. New York: Doubleday, 1953. Auerbach considers the Goncourts, whom he classifies as second-tier writers, in the context of the naturalist school. Compares their novels with those of Émile Zola.
Baldick, Robert. The Goncourts. London: Bowes, 1960. Excellent survey that concentrates on biographical background to the novels. Analyzes Charles Demailly as a personal manifesto of the brothers’ celibacy and misogyny.
Billy, Andre. The Goncourt Brothers. Translated by Margaret Shaw. New York: Horizon Press, 1960. The standard biography of the Goncourts. Discusses biographical events that are reflected in the novels and provides examples of contemporary reception.
Grant, Richard B. The Goncourt Brothers. New York: Twayne, 1972. A chronological survey that integrates the authors’ biographies with detailed stylistic and thematic analysis of their novels. Includes a detailed analysis of Charles Demailly and elaborates on the Goncourts’ critique of the world of journalism.
Nelson, Brian, ed. Naturalism in the European Novel: New Critical Perspectives. New York: Berg, 1992. A collection of essays by prominent scholars on the naturalist schools in England, France, Germany, and Spain. Includes several important discussions of the Goncourts’ role in the development of social documentary as a literary genre.