Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 766
Alain Amparat (ah-LAN ahm-pehr-AH), the only son of the Amparats and heir to Amparat et Fils (Amparat and Sons), an old and respected Parisian silk manufacturing firm, which employs him as its figurehead director. Alain carries himself with the arrogant, slightly bored self-assurance that often accompanies both “old money” and natural good looks. He is twenty-four years old, tall, handsome, and very fair, with good teeth, long cheeks, a slightly equine nose, natural waves in his overly thick golden hair, and clear, grayish-green eyes framed by lush dark lashes. He is condescending toward his fiancée, Camille, whom he characterizes pejoratively as a “typical modern girl.” His commitment is shallow and perfunctory. He fully accepts and loves only his mother and Saha, his cat, the one thing in his life that he has chosen for himself. Soon after the wedding, Alain begins to feel restless, lose weight, and resent his wife’s corresponding heartiness. Because Camille outstrips Alain both sexually and in her ability to live life, he turns from her to Saha, whom he can dominate and who expects no more from him than love and sensuality. Only with Saha, Alain realizes, can he truly be himself. He begins to dread the day when Camille will move into his family home and is relieved when her attempted murder of Saha gives him an excuse to end the marriage and escape back to his childhood paradise with his beloved cat.
Camille Malmert (kah-MEEL mal-MAHR), Alain’s fiancée and later his bride, the nineteen-year-old daughter of a newly rich manufacturer of washing machines. Her family has more money but less social status than the Amparats. She is slim, healthy, dark, and attractive, with good teeth, white skin, small breasts, a resonant voice, stubby fingers, and large, almost black eyes surrounded by bluish-looking whites. She seems to Alain to be slightly commonplace because of her lack of modesty, her determination to speak her mind, and her love of jazz, slang, fast cars, and nightclubs. After Alain brings Saha to live with them, Camille views the cat as a rival, especially after Alain begins sleeping on the divan with the cat on his chest. She is both mystified by and jealous of Alain’s ability to empathize and communicate with Saha and irritated by his inability to understand and respect her. Her jealousy grows in direct proportion to her husband’s increasing indifference toward her. Camille forces a resolution to this strange love triangle by acting rashly. Her unsuccessful attempt to murder Saha by pushing her off their ninth-floor balcony gives Alain the excuse that he is looking for to leave Camille and return to his family home. The end of her marriage does not break Camille’s spirit. She leaves Alain, busily making plans for her life without him.
Saha, a three-year-old purebred Russian Blue cat that Alain purchased as a five-month-old kitten at a cat show. She is proud and suspicious, with deep-set golden eyes, big cheeks, a small body, a perfect face, and moonstone-colored fur. To Alain, she represents the nobility of all cats because of her natural dignity, innocence, modesty, and disinterestedness, as well as her ability to accept the inevitable, bear pain in silence, and love both freedom and order. He believes that such cats have affinities only with the finest type of human beings, those who can understand and communicate with them. Saha loves Alain, and she instinctively dislikes and distrusts Camille. After Alain and Camille marry, Saha is left behind at the Amparat family home, where she refuses to eat. Her health deteriorates to such an extent that Alain brings her to live with him and Camille. She eats, but only enough to keep alive. After Camille’s attempt to murder her, Saha and Alain return to his maternal...
(The entire section contains 1246 words.)
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