Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


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

Père Jean (pehr), the Blue...

(The entire section is 603 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Jean and his father are the central figures of the novel; both Giono’s self-portrait and the loving study of his father are unforgettable. Blue Boy is, in fact, filled with finely rendered, striking characters. Two aspects of the characters and characterization are particularly interesting: Giono’s ability to bring even a minor character vividly to life with a deft, individualizing stroke, and the fact that Blue Boy is replete with characters who reappear in Giono’s later novels.

Giono was exceptionally sensitive to the “form, the color, the sound, the sensation” of the world and the people around him. The girls who work in his mother’s laundry, the men who come to his father for help, the denizens of the sheep court, the men and women of Corbieres are all brought convincingly to life; the unique humanity of each is seen so sharply and sketched so precisely that virtually all are indelibly imprinted in the reader’s memory. For example, the fascinating gallery of women includes Sister Clementine, who has the “nobility of a column” and whose body when she walks undulates like “waves, the neck of a swan, a moan”; Madame Massot, “an agreeable country lady; with so much goodness in her blind eye, so much goodness in her good eye, her sagging cheeks” that she seems to have been “cooked in the oven of goodness like a brick”; Aurelie, the baker’s wife, with “hair so black that it made a hole in the sky”;...

(The entire section is 438 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Girard, Marguerite Mathilde. Jean Giono: Mediterranean, 1974.

Goodrich, Norma L. Giono: Master of Fictional Modes, 1973.

Peyre, Henri. “Jean Giono,” in French Novelists of Today, 1967.

Redfern, W.D. The Private World of Jean Giono, 1967.

Smith, Maxwell A. Jean Giono, 1966.