What are the most significant events in Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first most significant event in The Elegance of a Hedgehog (representing Rene's hidden elegance) is when Mr. Ozu moves into the apartment building of which Rene is the concierge. Mr. Ozu is a catalyst for the further development of the story. He sees through both Rene and Paloma and realizes they are more than they let themselves appear to be. He encourages both to expand the revelations of their true identities, for example, he gives Rene Anna Karenina and he prompts Paloma to reveal her fluency in Japanese. After his influence, Rene and Paloma discover each other and become friends and discover they are "kindred" souls of one another.

Another significant event is when Mr. Ozu invites Rene to dinner. Rene backs down, and Paloma shares with him the story Rene relayed about her sister's unfortunate experience. Mr. Ozu convinces Rene to join him at his birthday dinner and insists that "You are not your sister, we can be friends. We can be anything we want to be." The next most significant event is the last. Rene goes out the next morning in high spirits while thinking of Mr. Ozu's words to buy brass cleaner. Through an unfortunate encounter with Gégène, she is struck by a dry cleaner's van (ironically, once her life has finally been cleaned and pressed and is ready to be polished up) and dies. In grief, Mr. Ozu and Paloma go to Rene's loge and lament the loss of Paloma's "kindred soul":

How can you have a profound thought when your kindred soul is lying in a hospital refrigerator?

Finally, Paloma's life is vitalized. She decides that she will not destroy the building and herself when she is thirteen. She decides instead that she will continue "searching for those moments of always within never."