Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Erick von Lhomond

Erick von Lhomond (loh-MOHN) a Prussian soldier who fought with the White Russians against the Bolsheviks during the Russian civil war. He later became a soldier of fortune, engaged in civil conflicts in central Europe, the Chaco, Manchuria, and Spain. Tall, lean, blue-eyed, and tanned, he retains his youthful elegance at forty, his age when he narrates the story of his relationship with Conrad and Sophie de Reval twenty years earlier. His narrative begins when he returns to Kratovitsy, his boyhood home, after his training as a White Russian soldier. When he returns, he lives on an old, overrun estate that belongs to the de Reval family: Conrad de Reval; his retarded, unmarried aunt; a gardener; and Conrad’s sister, Sophie. He had lived with the family before, when he was sixteen years old. During that idyllic time on the estate, which was like paradise, Erick and Conrad became best friends. Since that time, Erick’s overriding passion has been his love for Conrad. He is indifferent to other people and to political causes and believes that this detachment is the primary reason for his effectiveness as a soldier. He is cold and detached, “morally impotent.” When Sophie, Conrad’s sister, falls in love with him, his unspoken love for Conrad dooms this relationship to a tragic denouement. After Conrad’s death, Erick’s rightist political affiliation forces a mortal confrontation with Sophie, who joined the Reds when she realized Erick’s feelings for her brother. Erick’s emotional and moral detachment determines the outcome of...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

All the characters in Yourcenar’s Coup de Grace are peripheral to the complex relationship among Erick, Conrad, and Sophie, and, true to the style of the French recit, even the reader’s understanding of that relationship is carefully controlled by Erick’s highly subjective recounting of it. It is he who views Sophie as first innocent, then morally loose, enamored of him, and ultimately vengeful. The approximately fifteen years which intervene between the events and Erick’s recollection of them further serve to color his memories, and since all the principals are dead except himself, one has only Erick’s testimony that there is a likeness between himself and Sophie and that he feels a haunting but forbidden attraction to Conrad, one which he seeks to obliterate through his clumsy execution of Conrad’s sister.

Clearly the episode haunts Erick’s life, and he feels a need to recount the compromising story to present comrades-in-arms, despite what it reveals about his own ruthlessness and not least about his inner psychic state and predisposition. His obvious self-hatred results from his latent homosexuality, though he is completely unaware of the latter and so remains totally oblivious of just how personally compromising his story is.

Erick remarks repeatedly that he wishes his narrative to be uncompromisingly honest. This attempt to be dispassionate, especially about a situation whose essence is passion, causes him to...

(The entire section is 459 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Blot, Jean. Marguerite Yourcenar, 1971.

“Marguerite Yourcenar,” in Current Biography, 1982. Edited by Charles Moritz.

“Marguerite Yourcenar Will Be Honored at National Arts Club,” in The New York Times. CXXV (February 26, 1986), sec. III, pp. 22-25.

Yourcenar, Marguerite. The Dark Brain of Piranesi and Other Essays, 1984.

Yourcenar, Marguerite. With Open Eyes: Conversations with Matthieu Galey, 1984.