Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 747
Bertrand Carnéjoux, the forty-five-year-old host of the dinner party and husband of Martine Carnéjoux. He is the editor in chief of Ring, a newspaper, and author of the book Sober Pleasures, an experimental novel. He has been having affairs with Marie-Ange Vasgne, Armande, the chambermaid, and his secretary, Colette. Throughout the dinner, he reminisces about Marie-Plum, the only woman he ever loved. He once slept with Lucienne Osborn, almost twenty years ago, but he does not recognize her until near the end of the party. He obsesses about his own death, giving the pair of jeweled cufflinks he would be buried in to Jérôme Aygulf. Bertrand is jealous of the dance Martine had with Gilles Bellecroix and fears there may be an attraction between them.
Martine Carnéjoux, nicknamed Pilou, the hostess of the dinner party and wife of Bertrand. She is twenty-five years old and has two children, Jean-Paul, age four, and Rachel, age two, who form the emotional nucleus of her life. Shortly before the party, she had a nose job. She knows about her husband’s numerous affairs, but despite this, she has been faithful to him throughout their ten-year marriage. She had a memorable dance with Gilles Bellecroix the previous January and is sexually attracted to him.
Marie-Ange Vasgne, a twenty-three-year-old French Canadian model. A country girl from Quebec, she was raped by a redheaded man when she was fourteen years old. This rape altered the course of her life. She became a prostitute, using men to advance her career. Eventually, she moved to France and became a magazine model. She comes to the dinner party hoping to seduce John Osborn so that he will give her a part in a movie he is directing. He does not show up. Throughout the dinner, she fantasizes about sleeping with all the men there, especially the wealthy Roland Soulaires. By the end of the party, she decides to go home with Jérôme Aygulf, another redhead. She imagines marrying him and settling down.
Gilles Bellecroix, a failed novelist but successful screenwriter. He is forty-nine years old and has been happily married for ten years to Bénédicte, who is twenty years younger. Devoted to Bénédicte and their three-year-old son, Nicolas, he has never been unfaithful. He dislikes writing screenplays and wants to go back to writing novels. Throughout the dinner party, he thinks about sleeping with Martine Carnéjoux. In the 1930’s, Eugénie Prieur was his lover.
Jérôme Aygulf, a third-year law student and childhood friend of Martine Carnéjoux’s younger sister. He is a twenty-year-old leftist who dislikes the bourgeois atmosphere of the dinner party. He loves Martine, but she does not love him. He was invited to this dinner solely because another guest could not attend. He resides with his grandparents and feels hypocritical because he lives off their money. Toward the end of the dinner, his latent homosexuality manifests itself in his unspoken attraction for Bertrand Carnéjoux.
Roland Soulaires, the president and director of the Loubski mines. He is forty-three years old, fat, bald, wealthy, and unmarried. Throughout his life, he has suffered from bouts of impotence and tends to fear women because of this. During the dinner, he is preoccupied with stock prices and discusses literature and history with Eugénie Prieur. Recently, Marie-Louise temporarily “cured” his impotency, and he fantasizes about sleeping with Marie-Ange Vasgne.
Eugénie “Gigi” Prieur
Eugénie “Gigi” Prieur, a sixty-five-year old, once beautiful, famous fixture at all the best society parties. Throughout the dinner, she debates French history and literature with Roland Soulaires. In 1919, she became pregnant by the author Jean-Jacques Limher; she had an abortion, which has haunted her ever since. She feels estranged from her only child, Marie-Therese. She and Gilles Bellecroix were lovers in the 1930’s.
Lucienne Osborn, the wife of the American director John Osborn. A forty-one-year-old, nearsighted Capricorn, she constantly watches her horoscope. She is concerned about her looks and obsesses about her suntan and her dachshund, Zig, whom she left at home. She does not love her eighty-year-old husband, who is having an affair with Ivy Luck. She looks forward to her husband’s death and is sleeping with Léon-Pierre, the only man to sexually satisfy her. Almost twenty years ago, Bertrand Carnéjoux was her lover.
Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 245
Mauriac, Claude. The New Literature. Translated by Samuel I. Stone. New York: George Braziller, 1959. Critical study of twentieth century French literature by the author of The Dinner Party. Especially useful for gaining appreciation of Mauriac’s theory of fiction; explains his concept of aliterature, which he used in creating The Dinner Party and other novels.
Mayhew, Alice. “All Things at Once.” Commonweal 81 (September 25, 1964): 20. Assesses the “suite of four novels” in which Mauriac explores problems of communication in the twentieth century. Discusses the role of Bertrand Carnéjoux in The Dinner Party and other works in Mauriac’s sequence.
Mercier, Vivian. The New Novel from Queneau to Pinget. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1971. Lengthy chapter on Mauriac. Contains an extensive analysis of The Dinner Party; attempts to aid readers in understanding Mauriac’s complex method of narration. Claims that his presentation of characters borders on stereotype and caricature.
Moore, Harry T. Twentieth Century French Literature Since World War II. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1966. Brief review of Mauriac’s work as a novelist. Classifies him with others writing “antinovels” after World War II. Sketches his aims in The Dinner Party and notes his use of readers’ aids to assist in interpreting the work.
Roudiez, Leon. French Fictions Today. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1972. A chapter on Mauriac includes commentary on The Dinner Party that focuses on the author’s techniques of narration and highlights his preoccupation in the book with sex and death.
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