Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Stephanie, the protagonist and first-person narrator. She is ignored initially by her “flapper” mother, a beautiful Russian émigré who turns her over to a Russian émigré governess. Later, her father, an impoverished aristocrat, is killed in World War II. Stephanie is thus rendered insecure about love. She behaves as a “good girl” to win the love of her mother and her husband, but she finds that all of her various “lovers” are also “tyrants” who limit her freedom and potential. Her life and the novel are about her struggle to reconcile the opposed values of stable love and freedom.

Lydia Romanovna Mishanskaya (Mishka)

Lydia Romanovna Mishanskaya (Mishka), Stephanie’s governess from the time she is four years old until she is nine. She is the first “tyrant” in Stephanie’s eyes. She is a strict, emotionally repressed, unmarried woman whose hypochondria and needy love make Stephanie dependent and fearful.

Stephanie’s father

Stephanie’s father, a conservative French viscount who is living in Paris and is estranged from Stephanie’s mother. He is a pilot who is killed early in World War II. This news is withheld from Stephanie, who is unable until much later to grieve properly for the distant parent she idolized.

Stephanie’s mother

Stephanie’s mother, a beautiful Russian who escaped to Paris in the 1920’s. She is...

(The entire section is 498 words.)