Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Alain Amparat

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

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...

(The entire section is 766 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

To emphasize the incompatibility of husband and wife, Colette created them in sharp contrast to each other. Both are outstandingly attractive: Alain is blond, delicate, and introspective while Camille is dark, easygoing, and uninhibited. Alain comes from a highly respected manufacturing family. Fatherless since childhood, he has been spoiled and mollycoddled by his mother and by the servants, who refer to him as “the young Master.”

Camille is every inch a “modern girl” in the 1930’s mode. She drives fast cars, dresses immaculately, smokes to excess, and uses coarse language. Alain is wholly conservative, locked in the habits and emotions of his childhood.

The biggest contrast between them concerns their attitudes to lovemaking. Marriage gives Camille the freedom of legitimized sex (denied to single women of the period), and she wants to take full advantage of it. Alain, who has had casual affairs in the past, is repulsed and perhaps frightened by Camille’s open sensuality; he retreats from it into his relationship with the cat. The distance between the couple remains under the surface most of the time, emerging in the form of an occasional repartee.

Although Alain has the weaker personality, his self-absorption makes him more manipulative. He uses Camille’s crude attempt to get rid of the cat as an opportunity, rather than as a reason, for leaving her. Camille has no inkling of the way she is being manipulated. She...

(The entire section is 480 words.)