Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, easily taken for Anaïs Nin herself. The narrator identifies herself in a poetic and mysterious fashion before introducing the novella’s other characters and, ultimately, the House of Incest. She is much more than a bystander throughout the work; for example, she describes her highly erotic relationship with Sabina.


Sabina, the narrator’s lover, though the physical consummation of their love is not made explicit. Sabina is portrayed as the complementary missing half of the narrator, capable of all the passions except love, whereas the narrator is capable only of love. Sabina is also a liar; she lies even to herself. She is still essentially innocent and needs the illusions she spins in order to survive psychologically.


Jeanne, a simultaneously imperious and crippled figure fascinated by her image in the mirror and tortured by the fact that she is in love with her brother.

The paralytic

The paralytic, a writer unable to record a single word because of the inherent failure of language to record accurately the full complexity of his inner life.

The modern Christ

The modern Christ, an empath so sensitive to other people that he has been essentially flayed alive, “crucified by his own nerves for all our neurotic sins.”

The dancer

The dancer, the novella’s concluding figure. The dancer once lost her arms for clutching too firmly at everything she loved. Her arms are returned to her, and she dances toward an escape route from the House of Incest, seeking forms of love in which people do not merely love themselves in another.