Jean (zhahn), the Blue Boy, a boy of about seven when the story opens. He grows to maturity by the end of the book, when he joins the French army in 1914. Jean lives with his mother and father in the Provençal hills at the Italian border. He is the narrator of this fictionalized autobiography, in which he recounts incidents in his own life and the lives of those around him from a boy’s point of view, observing grief, sickness, death, and cruelty, as well as joy and delight. An impressionable, imaginative, solitary child, he spends hours watching people from the windows of his parents’ apartment, looking into the windows and doors of the neighbors’ apartments and down into the sheep pen that forms the “courtyard” of the apartment building. Much of his time is spent in his mother’s laundry on the ground floor and in the cobbler’s shop of his father on the third floor. Carefully dressed, with a starched white collar and a sky-blue silk tie, he attends the convent school of the Sisters of the Presentation. Much later, when he has become a young man, he gets a job at a bank, where he must wear blue livery. At that job, he feels divided into two parts, one that carries out orders and performs menial tasks, and the inner one, which he calls “Blue Boy.” That part has been taught how to escape into the world of poetry, music, and compassion for the suffering of others.
Père Jean (pehr), the Blue...
(The entire section is 603 words.)