Beatrice and Virgil Characters
by Yann Martel

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Beatrice and Virgil Characters

Henry L’Hôte

When Beatrice and Virgil opens, Henry is working on a new novel about the Holocaust. Henry has been wildly successful with his previous novel. In Henry’s view, stories allow people to access an imaginative truth, one that may not be as precise as historical truth. However, a metaphor is true regardless of whether it is real. In this way, imaginative truth may be more profound. He has come to realize that narratives related to the Holocaust always revolve around a similar plot arc and theme, and he feels that people have limited their understanding of the Holocaust by refusing to tell the story in any other way. While Henry’s wife tells him that he sees the Holocaust in everything, he feels that he sees “everything in the Holocaust.” Furthermore, Henry feels that his perspective is important.

Unfortunately, his publishers disagree. After they fly him to London and confront him with the flaws of his new book, Henry feels devastated. He returns home and convinces his wife that they need a change. She quits her job and they move to a new city. There, Henry begins to set up a new life for himself; his new life involves creativity and imagination, but he is not writing.

The imagination is a vital aspect of Henry’s life; even when he is not writing, he does not abandon his creative spirit. He begins to take music lessons and he joins an amateur acting group. He is deeply conscious of the world and the problems it faces, which is reflected in his work for a fair-trade chocolateria. His sense of compassion also leads him to respond to his fan mail.

One of his reader’s letters begins Henry’s return to writing. Henry discovers that this fan lives nearby, and he goes to meet him. He is an eccentric taxidermist. However cold the taxidermist may be on the outside, his play has a lot of potential. Sadly, the taxidermist is stuck, and Henry, who is in a similar situation, decides to help. In particular, he feels sad that the taxidermist is stuck in his creative process when Henry has had so much success with his previous novel.

If Beatrice and Virgil were guides to Dante in the Divine Comedy, here, the two characters seem to guide Henry through his own creative purgatory. Henry discovers, much to his horror, that the taxidermist was involved in the Holocaust, and the taxidermist stabs him when confronted. However, although he is forever scarred by the events that happened to him, he also seems to find his muse again, and he goes on to write a novel entitled Beatrice and Virgil.

Henry the Taxidermist

Throughout most of the story, this Henry is referred to as “the taxidermist.” Henry first learns about the taxidermist when he receives a package from him that includes an excerpt from a play, a short story with highlighted passages, and a request for help. The short story is “The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitalier” by Gustave Flaubert. The taxidermist has highlighted passages that outline the violence that the hero of the story does to animals. However, by the end of the Flaubert’s story, the hero finds redemption, though his violence against animals is never balanced. The play concerns two characters named Beatrice and Virgil. Virgil attempts to explain what a pear is to Beatrice, but neither of them has a pear. Finally, there is a letter asking for help.

Because the sender of the letter lives nearby, Henry decides to go see him. Although he at first only intends to leave a note in the taxidermist’s mailbox, when he discovers that his...

(The entire section is 929 words.)