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 (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.)