Our Lady of the Flowers Characters

Jean Genet

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Our Lady of the Flowers

Our Lady of the Flowers, a convicted murderer. In real life, he was Adrien Baillon, born on December 19, 1920, and executed on February 2, 1939. In the story, he is identified by the titular sobriquet, by his real name, and as an imaginary extension of “Maurice Pilorge,” the name given him by the author in an earlier poem and retained as the name of the person to whose memory the novel is dedicated. As a character in the story, he is loved by Divine, Seck Gorgui, and others, is affectionately called Danie, and is engaged in drug dealing with Marchetti. The details of his trial and execution are orchestrated in the narrative to coincide with the accounts of the deaths of Alberto and Divine. Like all the male characters in the novel, he is homosexual.

Jean Genet

Jean Genet (zhah[n] zheh-NAY), the thirty-year-old author and narrator of the story, serving time at Fresnes Prison in cell 426, where, by contemplating newspaper photographs attached to the wall, he creates character roles for the men photographed. His imaginative assignment of these roles to himself and his fellow inmates serves to stimulate his erections, enabling him to masturbate, and to provide the substance of the story. The main role that he creates for himself is Louis Culafroy, a boy reared in the countryside who goes to Paris and becomes a transvestite male prostitute known as Divine. Our Lady of the Flowers, Alberto, and Marchetti are also, in part, confections of his own psychic identity.


Divine (dee-VEEN), the dominant persona of Jean Genet, his coeval. “She” loves Darling Daintyfoot and Seck Gorgui and is jealous of Our Lady of the Flowers. “She” dies of consumption. Divine is the personification of Genet’s quest for sainthood.

Louis Culafroy

Louis Culafroy (lwee kew-lah-FRWAH), Divine/Genet as a boy. His mother is Ernestine, the widow of a man who committed...

(The entire section is 847 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

All the characters in Our Lady of the Flowers are seen through the perspective of the narrator, who is Genet himself or a version of himself. Perspective is not a strong enough term, for the narrator states that his characters are his own fantasies, which he develops for his own onanistic purposes. The fractured narrative which results is interwoven with the narrator’s own prison experiences, past and present. All the other major characters, then, are primarily versions of himself.

This fact is especially true of the book’s central figure, Divine. From the unhappy childhood and borderline murderous mother to the vagabond adolescence, the background for Divine’s character is artfully modeled on Genet’s own. Divine’s true uniqueness, on the other hand, lies in her ability to transform reality by living a willed fantasy. Her transformation into a woman is at every moment subject to external abuse and pressure from a hostile society. Nevertheless, she is somehow able to transcend these impossibilities and bring not only a sort of poetry into her world but also a kind of love.

Darling is the male fantasy counterpart to Divine—that is, he is the desired male figure that the narrator creates to be Divine’s lover so the narrator can enjoy him vicariously. Darling’s key attributes are all external: his physique, his manner of smoking a cigarette, even his bodily functions. He has little interior development and little...

(The entire section is 464 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Coe, Richard. The Vision of Jean Genet, 1968.

Knapp, Bettina. Jean Genet, 1968.

MacMahon, Joseph. The Imagination of Jean Genet, 1963.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Introduction to Our Lady of the Flowers, 1963.

Thody, Philip. Jean Genet: A Study of His Novels, 1968.