Justine, 1957

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, identified as L. G. Darley later in the quartet. All the events in this book are filtered through Darley’s understanding. After the central events recounted in the novel, Darley moves to an island (with Justine, the daughter of Melissa Artemis and Nessim Hosnani) and begins the write the narrative of Justine. He uses his own memories, Justine Hosnani’s diary, and another book,Moeurs, written about Justine by Justine’s former husband, the Albanian-French Jacob Arnauti. Darley recounts how he, a poor schoolteacher and later minor British War Office official and spy, began to have an affair with Justine, grew obsessed with her, and worried that Nessim, Justine’s husband, was going to have him killed. Darley experiences guilt over cheating on his lover, Melissa Artemis, and on his friend Nessim. He also believes that Justine loves him. In one memorable sequence, he goes with Nessim to help Justine leave a child brothel, where they find her nearly hysterical.

Justine Hosnani

Justine Hosnani, the title character. Attractive to all, multifaceted, wildly promiscuous, impressionable, and intelligent, Justine is also a staple of literature, the deceptive fatal woman. She begins an affair with Darley after hearing him deliver a lecture on poet C. P. Cavafy. She tells of being raped as child. It appears that her sexual escapades are attempts to re-enact that experience. Before marrying Nessim, she was very poor and apparently lost her one child, a daughter, perhaps as a result of kidnapping. She is Jewish, although she converted to Coptic Christianity upon marrying her second husband, Nessim. She takes part in the Cabal, a study...

(The entire section is 704 words.)