Mouchette (mew-SHEHT), a fourteen-year-old peasant girl living in northern France. She is a highly sensitive and perceptive young girl who is desperate for attention and exhausted with being brutalized by the adults in her life. She is raped by the drunken poacher Arsène and tries unsuccessfully to tell those in authority about the experience. Isolated and completely friendless, she is overwhelmed with feelings of disgust but finds a strange kind of consolation even in the brutal rape. She announces to Mathieu that she is Arsène’s lover. The growing consciousness of the depth of her despair drives her to suicide by drowning.
Arsène (ahr-SEHN), a young, alcoholic, epileptic poacher. He warns Mouchette that there is a devastating cyclone destroying the countryside; the fabrication is his means of getting her to stay with him in his forest hut. He also tells her that he may have killed the game warden, Monsieur Mathieu, thus gaining her trust and loyalty. As he becomes progressively more intoxicated, he has an epileptic seizure, after which Mouchette tenderly cradles his head and sings to him. After coming to, he brutally rapes her.
Mouchette’s mother, a middle-aged woman dying of tuberculosis. She is from a family of alcoholics and is dying an early death because of her weakened hereditary background. She is emaciated, malnourished, and in severe pain, because her lungs have virtually ceased to function. A bitter woman whose life has been nothing but grinding poverty and abuse from her family, she endures her last moments by drinking as much gin as possible to anesthetize...
(The entire section is 718 words.)