Michel (mee-SHEHL), the narrator, a twenty-four-year-old archaeologist, brought up in a highly puritanical atmosphere. The product of an exclusively scholastic and bookish education, he marries Marceline only to please his dying father, without really knowing what he is doing. During his honeymoon in North Africa, he contracts tuberculosis. After having this brush with death, he recovers and sets out to mount an all-out war against anything that could threaten his health. He also starts experiencing all kinds of previously unsuspected physical joys and realizes that he carries within himself a precious and occult self that he is determined to free from the constraints of social and moral conformity. His attraction to young boys reveals his unconscious and repressed homosexuality. The harshness of his repression will determine the harshness of his individualism, which will sweep away and destroy anything and everything that stands in its path, including his wife. Marceline’s death, however, does not bring him the all-encompassing freedom for which his authentic self had longed. Michel illustrates the dangers and failures of excessive individualism.
Marceline (mahr-seh-LEEN), Michel’s wife. During their honeymoon in Africa, she nurses him back to health with a total and loving devotion. She embodies orthodox morality, honesty, and religion,...
(The entire section is 583 words.)