Louis Lambert (lwee lahm-BEHR), called Pythagoras by his schoolmates, a sensitive young philosophy student at a private secondary school. He is an intellectual prodigy subject to flights of mysticism, resembling a youthful Balzac. As he enters boarding school at the age of fourteen, he is slight but powerful and dark-haired, with a pronounced forehead and striking eyes. He is tanned and healthy, but after only a few months of a rigid school regime, he becomes pale, sickly, and depressed. Having been accustomed to guiding his own education, he cannot adapt to being told what to study and when and misses the outdoors and his freedom. Reserved and retiring, Lambert is reluctant to participate in classes and recreational activities and consequently is treated as lazy, recalcitrant, and antisocial by faculty and fellow students. Derisively nicknamed Pythagoras, he succeeds in acquiring only one friend, the narrator. After leaving school, he spends three years in Paris, engaging in scientific studies, but he is alone and destitute. Lambert’s attempts to formulate a unifying theory of the universe, one that would account for spiritual phenomena as well as for matter and motion, lead him to further social isolation, intellectual isolation, and finally a cataleptic state, interpreted by most as insanity. His love for Pauline de Villenoix, rather than drawing him out of himself, seems to hasten his degeneration...
(The entire section is 570 words.)