The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Initially, Louis is not a very attractive character, shallow and self-centered as he is. At times, his behavior with his stepmother is annoyingly close to toadyism, at least until Octavia’s death; yet he lacks any real feeling for Brigitte, or indeed for anyone except his sister and his friend. Since Michele and Jean’s love for each other relegates Louis to the background of their lives, the dominant emotions of his youth become jealousy and loneliness. His main role is that of observer and analyzer, rather than participant, in the dramas and heartbreaks around him. He is the character to whom secrets are confided, even though he cannot really empathize. He is the reader of diaries and letters, the onlooker at others’ actions. Louis grows up to be a rather bloodless figure, never really touched by the passions which move the characters about him.

Brigitte, on the other hand, is a truly formidable creation. Secure and sincere in her belief in her own moral perfection, she manages to clothe every vindictive act she commits with the robe of pious concern for her victim’s salvation. She is the cousin of her husband’s first wife, and she cannot suppress her jealousy of the dead woman. She attempts to efface her predecessor from M. Pian’s memory by looking for, and finding, evidence of the first Mme Pian’s adultery. Though Brigitte manages to resist revealing her knowledge for some time, as soon as she senses that her control over her husband has weakened,...

(The entire section is 603 words.)