Xavier Dartigelonghue (zhah-VYAY dahr-teezh-LOHNG), a middle-class young man intending to enter a seminary in Paris. Sensitive and intelligent, he is interested in human nature and, by aspiring to the priesthood, hopes to touch the lives of others. On the train to Paris, he meets Jean de Mirbel, who is separating from his wife, Michèle. Through a series of questions on the value of the priesthood, Jean intensifies Xavier’s self-doubts about his vocation and convinces him to return to his home in Larjuzon. This temptation, forcing Xavier to reconsider his plans, is followed by sensual conflict. Attracted by Dominique’s beauty and kindness, he replaces spiritual vocation with passionate desire. Her departure requires renunciation of this love; a higher love for the orphan Roland impels him to make a sacrifice that enables him to perceive the earthly presence of Christ. Through self-sacrifice, he restores dignity to Roland’s life. By recognizing the force of divine grace that sustains his suffering, Xavier resists the third temptation of earthly pleasure proposed by a cynical priest. Financially and psychologically, Xavier ensures Roland’s well-being, but on returning to Jean’s villa on bicycle, he is killed by the car driven by Jean. In dying, Xavier becomes an instrument of divine grace and, like Christ, endures self-sacrifice that leads to self-knowledge and the actualization of love.
Jean de Mirbel
Jean de Mirbel (zhah[n] deh meer-BEHL), a landowner in the Landes, near Bordeaux. A handsome but bitter man, he suffers from an impotent relationship with his wife, Michèle, and seeks separation from her. Worldly, self-centered, and calculating, he exploits and twists for his own demonic purposes Xavier’s intentions to become a priest. His cruelty extends to verbal and...
(The entire section is 791 words.)