Characters Discussed

The narrator

The narrator, a person unidentified as to age or sex. The narrator of this unusual novel never refers to himself in the first person and in fact is never specifically identified as a person at all. The narrator is probably, however, the owner of the plantation and A . . . ’s husband. The repetition of the scenes he describes is evidence that the narrator is obsessed with them. The scenes at the dinner table, for example, suggest that the narrator lives at the plantation, because these descriptions always specify the number of places set, and invariably there is one extra place, which can only be for the narrator. It is possible that the narrator believes that his wife is having an affair with their neighbor, Franck. In French, the title of the novel not only means “jealousy” but is also a pun on jalousies, or Venetian blinds, the shutters through which the narrator frequently views scenes, a suggestion that he is spying on his wife and neighbor but also an indication of the narrowness and limitation of the point of view he presents.

A . . .

A . . . , a beautiful, dark-haired woman who lives in a house on an isolated banana plantation. She is characterized by a few simple repeated actions and by descriptions of certain of her possessions. She reads a book and discusses it with Franck, makes drinks for Franck (and perhaps for her husband—there is always a third glass set out), sits down to...

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The Characters

While the description of the characters in The Erasers and The Voyeur was summary by traditional standards, it is all but nonexistent in Jealousy. In his critical articles, already mentioned, Robbe-Grillet states his belief that a change in the very nature of the protagonist is necessary if the novel is to be revitalized. Instead of the conventional hero with a name, face, and background, the new hero must be a simple il (“he” or “it”) and serve as the “subject of the action expressed by the verb.” Thus, information that would allow the reader to identify personally with the characters of the book should be absent from the work or at least reduced to a minimum. It seems obvious that Robbe-Grillet has reached his goal in writing Jealousy.

The narrator of the novel never speaks and is never spoken to in the way that normally occurs in novels. French grammar is so constructed that it is possible to identify the gender of unidentified speakers simply by checking the endings of adjectives. Thus a person who says “je suis fatigue” (I am tired) is male, while “je suis fatiguee” identifies a female. Yet this narrator is never quoted, nor do A... and Franck address the narrator directly; thus this person cannot be identified as to gender.

As for Franck, Robbe-Grillet tells the reader only that he has a wife and child (who never appear in the book), that he mistrusts native drivers, and that he eats like an American. That is, after cutting his meat, he shifts his fork from his left to his right hand.

Then there is A.... She has long legs, long hair, and green eyes, and is very efficient at running the house. As with some of the characters in The Erasers, there is a strong indication that she is not to be seen as a real person. Robbe-Grillet says that her eyes are very big, that she always keeps them as wide open as possible, and that she never blinks—no matter what the intensity of the light. He adds that they are in fact so big that one seems to see both of them at the same time, even when she is in profile. It would appear that the reader is faced with a mannequin or perhaps a painting by Pablo Picasso.