Though the book is heavy with Christian allusions, especially to the Old Testament, what The Passion According to G. H. presents is a completely secular description of a spiritual rebirth. The trivial act of squashing a cockroach as she cleans her maid’s room strangely rattles the story’s narrator and leads her into a cascade of profound reflections on the scheme of things.
The book centers on a few hours in the life of the narrator, who is identified only as G. H., as she sits in her servant’s room and thinks. The bulk of the text is taken up with a precise delineation of her thought processes as she reevaluates her life. This reevaluation, however, is not of the sort found in psychological novels, in which a character might reconsider past actions and resolve to make up for past lapses. What concerns G. H. is not any specific incidents but rather the tenor of her life. Thus, for example, thoughts on the animality of the cockroach lead her to ponder her own humanness, which, she learns, can be truly appreciated only by understanding its linkage to nature. This facet of her existence she has previously overlooked.
Abstruse as such a concentration on abstract issues may seem, the heroine’s spiritual journey is correlated with the specifics of her present lifestyle, her relation to her maid, and her past history. Concurrent with the unraveling of her previous, faulty spiritual constructions occurs a gradual revelation of her material circumstances.
G. H.’s life is ripe for enlightenment because it is one of extreme artificiality. She is a rentier, that is, one who lives off the dividends of her investments. She sculpts, not as serious artistic activity but to pass the time. Her friends are fellow idle bohemians, isolated...
(The entire section is 725 words.)