Joy of Man's Desiring Characters

Jean Giono

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Bobi, an acrobat, a stranger to the plateau and a bearer of healing and joy. Roughly thirty-five years old, he is tan and strong, with gentle, delicate hands and the language of a poet. He sees the joy of nature in plants and animals and awakens the farmers of the plateau to the beauty and joy around them. Bobi appears in the middle of the night, stays with Jourdan and Marthe (a lonely farming couple of the plateau), and speaks to them of the beauty of the stars, of the flowers and forest, of the song of birds, and of the wonder of wildlife. He represents the healer for whom Jourdan has been waiting. Jourdan takes him to visit all the other families of the plateau, and Bobi tries to transmit his joy to all. Although he loves the young Aurore, he is attracted by the womanly Josephine. When Aurore kills herself in despair, Bobi believes that all of his efforts have failed but refuses to believe that people can live without hope or joy. Leaving in the midst of a terrible storm, he is struck by lightning.


Jourdan, the first person to welcome Bobi and to respond to his love of nature. Jourdan, old before his time and lonely in spite of his loving wife, has been expecting a man to come and save them from their dreary loneliness; he fully accepts Bobi as the healer whom he has awaited so long. Jourdan plants periwinkles and narcissi and gives Bobi money to buy a stag. He scatters wheat to attract birds, and he builds a loom for Marthe and carves it lovingly with stags, does, stars, a forest, and a house—all that now brings him happiness.


(The entire section is 663 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Bobi’s first appearance in the novel is as beautiful as it is mysterious. Seen against the bright horizon of evening stars, he is a creature at home in the natural world, comfortable amid the elemental forces of wind and rain and the eternal round of seasons. He is a latter-day Pan, emerging in the late winter to pipe in for Gremone the mysterious joys of spring, the symbol of resurrection.

Yet Bobi is far from naive. Unlike Pan, he is also a twentieth century man, afflicted with a modern sadness, a loneliness that keeps him apart from those who love him. Though he can guide the farmers into a joyful search for meaning through submission to nature, he himself is enigmatically unhappy, unfulfilled, as if knowing the futility of such a search. Though he evokes passion in Josephine and deep love in Aurore, his love for them is peculiarly nonsensuous.

Jourdan is also a man of ambivalent moods. Himself restless, yearning for the mysterious peace that has eluded him, he is at heart the practical farmer and typifies the shrewd, successful peasant, a man in tune with the seasons primarily because such congruence means a better farm and a better physical existence. Yet Jourdan is ductile, mysteriously open to Bobi’s Pan-like influence. Sensing that his well-being has not made him any happier, he becomes a sort of first apostle for Bobi’s pagan evangelism.

Marthe is also in search of peace and joy, but she is content to follow her...

(The entire section is 508 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Goodrich, Norma. Giono: Master of Fictional Modes, 1973.

Nadeau, Maurice. The French Novel Since the War, 1967.

Peyre, Henri. “Jean Giono,” in French Novelists of Today, 1967.

Redfern, W.D. The Private World of Jean Giono, 1967.

Smith, Maxwell A. Jean Giono, 1966.