Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 254
Durtal (dewr-TAHL), a writer. Speaking through Durtal, Huysmans himself is the hero of Down There, the first in a series of four novels tracing the author’s spiritual journey through skepticism and despair to the final goal of faith. While engaged in compiling the history of Gilles de Rais, Durtal becomes interested in church history and especially in Satanism. He is taken to witness a Black Mass by his mistress, Hyacinthe Chantelouve, who afterward tricks him into committing sacrilege. In disgust, he breaks off their relationship, thus ending this novel, the first of the four.
Gilles de Rais
Gilles de Rais (zheel deh ray), marshal of France murderer, sadist, and Satanist. Durtal’s readings from his history of the infamous marshal, youthful companion-in-arms to Jeanne d’Arc, make up large sections of Down There. Research into the details of his subject’s progress from early religious exaltation, through unspeakable perversion, arrest, trial, and repentance, leads Durtal into his interest in Satanism and from there to the Black Mass and sacrilege.
Hyacinthe Chantelouve (yah-SAHNT shahnt-LEWV), Durtal’s mistress, who takes him to a Black Mass and afterward betrays him into committing sacrilege.
Des Hermies (day zehr-MEE), Durtal’s friend, whose function in the novel is to listen to the writer talk.
Carhaix (kah-RAY), the bell ringer of Saint-Suspice, with whom Durtal discusses church history and Satanism.
Canon Docre (kah-NOHN dohkr), a renegade priest and a Satanist.
Chantelouve, a Catholic historian and the husband of Hyacinthe Chantelouve.