(Great Characters in Literature)

Characters Discussed

Dr. Benassis

Dr. Benassis (beh-nah-SEE), the self-appointed godfather to a remote and dying mountain village, where he revitalizes the economy and administers to physical and spiritual needs. A hundred years ahead of his time, the benevolent despot removes a dying line of cretins, imposes a regimen of self-sacrifice and good works on village officials, and surrounds himself with vital workers who in eight years carry out a reform program of health and welfare. He devotes his life to anonymous good works because of heavy burdens on his conscience: a lost fortune, the betrayal of a loved one who died, and the loss of his son by his mistress. As a doctor, he practices psychology and even recognizes the psychosomatic bases of many illnesses. As a mayor, he genially dispenses the village’s wealth as well as his own in order to make the helpless self-sufficient. His death leaves the populace devastated but inspired.

Colonel Pierre Joseph Genestas

Colonel Pierre Joseph Genestas (zheh-nehs-TAHS), one of Napoleon’s finest soldiers, who has seen the political tide go against him and who comes to see the doctor for a purpose. Posing as a Captain Bluteau, the colonel observes the physician on his rounds of mercy and administration before asking him to care for his foster child, a sixteen-year-old weakling. Knowing the old man to be sublime, he...

(The entire section is 402 words.)