Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Alain Guimiez

Alain Guimiez (ah-LAY[N] gee-MYEHZ), an aspiring young writer, snobbish, insecure, and overly anxious to impress. At twenty-seven years of age, he has not completed his doctoral dissertation or established himself professionally, but he covets the trappings of success. Living in a tiny efficiency apartment, he envies his aunt’s five-room apartment in a fashionable neighborhood. When, in a thoughtless moment, his aunt suggests an exchange, Alain first hesitates but soon greedily pictures himself entertaining friends in spacious surroundings. When his wife urges practicality and a teaching position, he sneers at “bourgeois” values and seeks solace from Germaine Lemaire. An established writer, she has praised his work and so flattered him that he has memorized her exact words. When she encourages him, she becomes the standard by which he lives. He acts ashamed of his father in her presence, questions his wife’s taste, and even submits his own expertise in art to her approval. Blinded by her aura of superiority, only occasionally does he glimpse her need for adulation. In rare moments, he sees her as ordinary, almost vulgar, but he cannot relinquish his faith because of his almost total lack of confidence in himself.

Gisèle Guimiez

Gisèle Guimiez (zhee-ZEHL), Alain’s wife, who clings to her husband but also is still dependent on her mother. Gisèle...

(The entire section is 618 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Alain Guimiez is too much the dandy to be a cad, too much the weakling to be mean, too shallow to be likable. He is interesting only because of a series of perceptions and observations which push him to the verge of paranoia. Alain sees his relationships—with his wife, with his aunt, and with Germaine—as adversarial. He is continually on the defensive, ready to apologize; continually bracing himself for the blow to his self-respect; constantly balancing between the emotional retreat and the verbal thrust.

Though still a young man, Alain is already something of a failure. He has been working on an academic thesis for a number of years, but it is obvious that he will never finish it. His father, Pierre, waits expectantly for him to secure a position, but Alain’s laziness and his reliance on his father’s and his aunt’s money permit him to live a life of decadence. He has been pampered by his aunt and has become selfish, petulant, and insecure.

Gisele, Alain’s wife, evokes the passive Victorian bride in a romantic novel. Devoted to Alain, she has few thoughts which do not concern her husband, and her own goal is to please him, to respect his wishes, especially with the furniture (she does not want the leather chairs that her mother gave them as a wedding gift, for example, because Alain thinks they are in bad taste). Gisele is absolutely convinced of Alain’s genius; when her mother warns her about Alain—a “queer” young man unlike others of his age—she merely smiles and insists that she loves him for his very peculiarity.

Aunt Berthe is the most interesting character in the novel. Though she is prepared to leave Alain a small fortune in her will and thus...

(The entire section is 698 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Despite its appearance of conventionality, The Planetarium is more innovative than the author's earlier works in that it has no...

(The entire section is 130 words.)