Who are the characters in A Woman's Life by Guy de Maupassant?

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Jeanne de Lamare

Jeanne is a naive young woman who marries the first suitor who makes her feel good about herself after leaving a convent at age 17. She is smitten with her husband, Julien, even after he ignores her upon returning from their honeymoon. Jeanne grows dejected yet resigned...

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Jeanne de Lamare

Jeanne is a naive young woman who marries the first suitor who makes her feel good about herself after leaving a convent at age 17. She is smitten with her husband, Julien, even after he ignores her upon returning from their honeymoon. Jeanne grows dejected yet resigned to acceptance after discovering Julien’s numerous affairs, dedicating her time to the care of her only child. Julien is killed by the husband of one of his mistresses, leaving Jeanne distraught. She is a self-pitying woman who is unable to assert her needs or desires, and she is ultimately controlled by the men in her life—first by Julien, then by her adult son. Jeanne desperately wants love and affection, and it’s because of this that she is willing to sacrifice her dignity in exchange for a false version of what she desires.

Julien de Lamare

Julien is the young Viscount who resides close to The Poplars and courts Jeanne soon after meeting her. Julien woos Jeanne, and she is flattered by his attention, under the pretense that he is madly in love with her. Soon after their honeymoon, however, Julien reveals his true nature: he is a miserly tyrant who controls every aspect of his wife’s life. In addition to this controlling nature, Julien is physically and emotionally distant from his new wife, making her feel neglected. Julien’s violent outbursts coupled with continuous extramarital affairs make him into a loathsome figure. The circumstances of his death serve as poetic justice for Jeanne, even though she is still devastated at the loss.

Paul de Lamare

Paul is the errant son of Jeanne and Julien. As a child, Paul was dotted upon by his mother, grandfather, and Aunt Lison. When he attends college, however, Paul gets involved with gambling and prostitutes. After running away to London with one of these prostitutes, he becomes a constant drain on his mother’s finances, manipulating her desire for his love in order to con her out of money to pay various debts and support his lifestyle. Paul serves as another man who controls and preys upon the benevolent character of Jeanne, who can only be convinced to give up on her son after he abandons his infant daughter to his mother’s care.

Aunt Lison

Aunt Lison is Jeanne’s unmarried elder aunt whose early display of emotion at the beginning of the text is a prophetic meditation on isolation. She eventually becomes a surrogate mother for Jeanne after Jeanne’s mother’s death, and Lison helps raise Paul along with Jeanne’s father once Julien dies. At first a figure to be pitied because of her seeming loneliness, Lison becomes an endearing figure in the text who truly understands the depth of Jeanne’s isolation.

Rosalie

Rosalie is the servant who worked at The Poplars until she is sent to be a maid in Jeanne and Julien’s home. When Rosalie suddenly becomes pregnant, Jeanne insists on having her confess the name of the father—not knowing that it is her own husband, Julien. Rosalie disappears after Jeanne discovers her in Julien’s bed one night, only to reappear many years later to serve the lonely Jeanne without pay. Rosalie redeems her past actions by caring for Jeanne, serving as both a financial and emotional advisor to her aging mistress. Rosalie and Jeanne become dedicated confidantes, and Rosalie gives Jeanne the courage to continue living even when she feels hopeless.

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