Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 451
The Nun by Denis Diderot is the story about a young woman forced to become a nun and the hardships she encounters while she works to be free.
Suzanna Simonin is the youngest daughter of a family with money and social position. She is forced to enter a convent when her sisters' suitors show interest in her. Later, she finds out this was forced because she is the product of her mother's affair. She moves from convent to convent, attempting to escape with the help of a lawyer. At some of the convents, she is abused. She is directed into a brothel. At the end, she is working and waiting for help from a member of the nobility. Letters between the lawyer and the man she was writing to explain that she died of an illness.
Marquis de Croismare is a nobleman that Suzanna is writing to for help. Though she has never met him before, she says she wishes to know him because of his excellent reputation. The story is written to him so that he understands everything that she has gone through in the hopes that he will assist her. At the end, he does offer his assistance.
Madame Simonin is Suzanne's mother. She convinces Suzanne to take her vows to become a nun and tells her that she has to do so to help absolve her mother of the sin of her infidelity.
Monsieur Simonin is a lawyer and Suzanne's father. He and her mother do not seem to love her as much as her sisters.
Father Seraphin is the head of the first convent that Suzanne goes to. He tells her about her mother's affair when Suzanne refuses to go through the process to become a nun.
Mademoiselle de Moni is the head of Suzanne's convent at Longchamp. She is a mystic who favors Suzanne. Her attempts to embrace mysticism to get closer to God end up killing her.
Sister Sainte Christine takes over after Mademoiselle de Moni dies. She hates Suzanne and abuses her by trapping her in her room and refusing to feed or clothe her. They make her walk over glass and isolate her so that no one else speaks to her.
Monsieur Manouri is the lawyer Suzanne writes to try to get help so she does not have to be a nun. He helps her escape Sister Sainte Christine and writes to Marquis de Croismare at the end of the novel to discuss her situation.
Mother Superior of Sainte-Eutrope is the mother superior of the last convent Suzanne goes to. She is a lesbian who caresses and kisses Suzanne, even though Suzanne is not aware of her intentions. She dies from an illness.