Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 835
Lafcadio Wluiki (laf-KAH-dee-oh lew-KEE), a charming nineteen-year-old, born a bastard, whose natural father turns out to be the dying Count Juste-Agénor de Baraglioul. Lafcadio is a free spirit, deliberately eschewing any kind of bond or constraint. His spirit of adventure and his obsession with the possibilities of his own nature lead him to test himself in a gamelike fashion, by pushing out of a speeding train, without any specific reason, Amédée Fleurissoire, whom he had never met before. This paradigmatic expression of the “gratuitous act” affects the lives of most of the characters. At the end, torn between conflicting tendencies, he tears away from Geneviève’s arms and seems ready to plunge into the unpredictable drifts of life.
Julius de Baraglioul
Julius de Baraglioul (zhew-LYEWS deh bah-rah-GLYEWL), a pompous, narrow-minded, pious writer of mediocre novels. He is Lafcadio’s half brother. His ultimate goal is to be elected to the French Academy. At one point, having realized that his writing system distorts reality, he undergoes an allegedly radical metamorphosis, sets up to attack logic and consistency, and conceives a young hero who will perform a “gratuitous act.” Faced with the reality of an unmotivated crime, namely Amédée’s murder, he refutes it with vehemence and is driven back to his old, narrow ideological system, his boldness surfacing only on paper. Through Julius, the author caricatures the figure of the novelist and calls into question the process of writing itself.
Juste-Agénor de Baraglioul
Juste-Agénor de Baraglioul (zhewst ah-gay-NOHR), a wealthy aristocrat, the father of Julius and Lafcadio. He never openly reveals that he is Lafcadio’s natural father, but he summons Lafcadio before dying and bequeaths him part of his fortune.
Marguerite de Baraglioul
Marguerite de Baraglioul (mahr-geh-REET), Julius’ wife, a surly, religious, middle-aged woman who complains about everything.
Geneviève de Baraglioul
Geneviève de Baraglioul (zheh-neh-VYEHV), the daughter of Julius and Marguerite, a beautiful, innocent, young volunteer nurse who falls in love with Lafcadio (her half uncle) and gives herself to him after his gratuitous murder of Amédée. She does not succeed, however, in making him reintegrate the world of conventional morality. She is a parody of the romantic heroine.
Anthime Armand-Dubois (ahn-TEEM ahr-MAH[N]-dew-BWAH), not only a pragmatic scientist but also a vehemently anticlerical, atheistic Freemason, suffering from acute sciatica. He is Julius’ brother-in-law. Converted to an ardent faith by a dream in which he is visited by the Virgin Mary, he is simultaneously cured from his sciatica and socially and financially ruined by the Freemasonry. The rumor that the pope residing in the Vatican is a false one restores him to his previous atheism and brings back his crippling disease.
Véronique (vay-roh-NEEK), Anthime’s pious wife, the sister of Marguerite and Arnica. She is a good-natured woman who puts up with her husband’s bad disposition with great patience.
Amédée Fleurissoire (ah-may-DAY flew-ree-SWAHR), Julius’ brother-in-law, united in an unconsummated marriage to Arnica Péterat. He is a pious, chaste, gullible, and ludicrous character who turns out to be the principal victim of Protos’ swindle. As soon as he hears the rumor that the real pope has been kidnapped and imprisoned in the castle Sant’Angelo, he sets out for Rome to attempt to deliver him. His falling prey to bedbugs in Marseilles, fleas in Toulon, and mosquitoes in Genoa constitutes the ironic prologue to his fatal involvement with Protos’ underground society. His senseless death epitomizes the absurdity of his whole life.
Arnica (ahr-nee-KAH ), Amédee’s...
(The entire section contains 1284 words.)
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