Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 327
The two main characters in Camera Lucida are Roland Barthes, the author, and his mother.
Barthes' book is an exploration of photography, what pictures contain, how photography is linked to death, and what it can preserve. He is clear that he doesn't like photography; one point he makes is that other art—painting, drawing, literature—takes a piece of life and adds something else to it. Photography, on the other hand, just takes a moment and pins it there without adding anything else. He says that he himself is not a photographer—even as an amateur. He says he doesn't have the patience.
His mother is the other main character in the book. He looks at pictures of her hoping to feel her presence. However, it doesn't help him see or understand her better. He says that images of her were only partially true and therefore were entirely false. She isn't in those photos. If anything, it only seems to make Barthes feel more alone.
From his memories, we find out she wore a Crêpe De Chine and that he associated her with the scent of her rice powder. He talks about the brightness of her eyes which he describes as blue-green. She had an ivory powder box and a crystal cut flagon on her vanity. He has a picture of her in 1913, sweet and chic, dressed in a hat with a feather. She loved large handbags. She had at least one brother who was two years older than her who she was photographed with at the age of five. When he sees her as a little girl, he says he can see her kindness.
Barthes as a human, rather than as the author, is most evident when he's remembering his mother. The love and loss he feels shine through. So, too, can the reader feel his frustration and sorrow at not being able to feel her presence even when he views old photographs of her.
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