What is the origin of Virginie's first name in A Simple Heart?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Flaubert does not give a specific reason as to why the child is named how she is.  Seeing this as well as the emphasis on Christianity that is present in the story, I think that we can draw some religious allusions to the name's origin.  The idea of "Virginie" helps to bring out the notion of the "Virgin Mary, " a symbol of incorruptible purity in the Christian faith.  To a great extent, Virginie represents this.  She has a pure love for Felicite, as she is the younger of the two children.  At the same time, it is Virginie, this "Virgin Mary" symbol, who brings the religious element of Felicite's identity into full view.  Felicite has never received any sort of formal religious education.  The first time that she does is when she studies with Virginie for her catechism classes.  In this setting, Virginie brings religious worship to Felicite, in much the same way that the Virgin Mary's presence helps to deliver religious fervor and belief to many.  Virginie's incorruptible nature, in stark contrast to her brother, is evident when she dies early, becoming a symbol of unity as Madame Aubain and Felicite bond over the shared mourning of the girl.

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