Moderato Cantabile Characters
by Marguerite Duras

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Moderato Cantabile Characters

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Unlike The Square (1955), some of the characters in Moderato Cantabile have names: Anne Desbaresdes, Chauvin, and the music teacher Mile Giraud. The recalcitrant child, who takes piano lessons from the severe Mile Giraud, remains only "the child." The absence of a name may signify his somewhat unreal existence. Anne says, "Sometimes I think I imagined you," and later expresses the same idea to Chauvin. Once again, the child is a catalyst, this time bringing Anne and Chauvin together. Anne accompanies the child to the dreaded music lessons every Friday, and takes him for a walk along the sea to revisit the cafe where the murder occurred. The child runs in and out of the cafe as Anne and Chauvin discuss the murder. The child is like a mirror image of Anne, incarnating her refusal of the monotonous world in which she is forced to live. It is also noteworthy that it is in the child's room that Anne regurgitates the food forced on her at the party.

Anne and Mile Giraud, who meet every Friday, are in conflict over the child. Anne prefers to walk with him along the sea; Mile Giraud insists that he conform to the rules of music and play the Diabelli sonatina "moderato cantabile." These two musical terms are in conflict; they are never used together in a musical composition. This indicates the tension between two poles: moderato is conformity to the habits of society, and cantabile represents freedom and involvement. Anne is torn by these tensions. Mile Giraud represents only moderato. The dual role played by Anne is most obvious during the dinner scene, where she makes an effort at conformity and bourgeois respectability, while yearning for the passion and violence represented by Chauvin's presence in the garden.

Anne also lives an imaginary existence. She becomes so involved in the murder she witnessed that she identifies herself with the victim, who supposedly was killed because the murderer was too much in love with her. While at the formal dinner, her being is actually back in the cafe with Chauvin or in the garden where she suspects his presence. At the end of the novel, Chauvin calls out at her, "I wish you were dead."...

(The entire section is 550 words.)