Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, who provides directions for the staging/reading of this stereophonic novel.

The producer

The producer, who chooses which and how many of the novel’s ten “tracks” (A-J) to air.

The listener

The listener, who is able to adjust the balance and volume of the audio production.

The readers

The readers, who possess greater freedom and mobility than the listener. They are able to follow one or more of the novel’s ten tracks, separately or together, and to adjust the “volume,” according to the narrator’s directions, from very soft to very loud.

The announcer

The announcer, the voice positioned at the center, providing background and describing the contemporary scene and events. The announcer eventually comes to comment on the characters—always, however, by type, never by name.

The reader

The reader, also located at center of the audio performance and printed text. This voice alternates with that of the announcer, reading descriptions of Niagara from three works by Viscount François-René de Chateaubriand.

The old married couple

The old married couple, who are returning to Niagara Falls after thirty years. They see how it has changed and how they have changed. Over the course of the novel’s twelve chapters (one for each month, April to March, alternately or concurrently and stereophonically covering a two-day period), the names of the old couple introduced in chapter 2 will change, though their role (as the old married couple) will remain the same. Thus, as the year and novel progress, the Charles and Diana of chapter 2 become or flow into Chris and Delia, Clem and Dorothy, Clifford and Deidre, Cary and Dora, Charlton and Doris, Claudius and Dollie, and Clinton and Dolly.


Just-marrieds, introduced in chapter 2, who cross the border into Canada and into marriage, devoting themselves to each...

(The entire section is 846 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The characters, with the possible exception of Quentin, are actually character types with little variation within their groupings. The “just marrieds,” for example, seem as interchangeable as all the other characters, so that the Abel and Betty of May could as easily be married to the Bettina and Andrew of July. They communicate in fragments and are only beginning to learn how to share with each other, to discover the likes and dislikes, the aspirations, the personalities, and the habits of their partners. The old married couples mark the passage of time, recounting their first visits as newlyweds or the poverty that prevented a honeymoon visit, remarking upon the ways in which their lives have changed and how everything has changed. They speak in interrupted fragments, talking past each other increasingly as the months go by and couples succeed each other. Remarkably absent from the cast are young children and teenagers, who are usually present in abundance at Niagara Falls, especially in the amusement parks that postdate the novel. Nevertheless, the absence of children may be seen as a pointed commentary on the married couples’ unproductive marriages or their empty nests.

The black gardeners, widowers and widows, and tourists all serve to highlight both personal and societal alienation and discrimination. They also accent the more general social tensions between blacks and whites in the racially turbulent 1960’s, particularly in the years just...

(The entire section is 493 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Aubral, Francois. Michel Butor, 1973.

McWilliams, Dean. The Narrative of Michel Butor: The Writer as Janus, 1978.

Mercier, Vivian. The New Novel: From Queneau to Pinget, 1971.

Spencer, Michael. Michel Butor, 1974.

Sturrock, John. The French New Novel: Claude Simon, Michel Butor, Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1969.