Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Lol Valerie Stein

Lol Valerie Stein, a young woman who is jilted by her fiancé. At the age of nineteen, Lol, a beautiful blue-eyed blond, is engaged to Michael Richardson, who later, at a ball, abandons her for another woman, Anne-Marie Stretter. Lol, led home by her mother, suffers a mental collapse and is secluded. Lol’s apparent madness stems not from the rejection but from her lack of emotional depth, which has been evident since childhood. Her distress at leaving the ball is caused not by the pain of losing a lover but by not being able to follow Michael and Anne-Marie to witness their intense passion, thus experiencing love vicariously. Later, after briefly meeting John Bedford, she marries him and moves away from South Tahla. After her return ten years later, she takes long walks; renews her acquaintance with Tatiana Karl, a friend from her school days; and acquires a lover, Jack Hold, one of Tatiana’s conquests. Her greatest pleasure, however, is derived from watching for glimpses of Jack and Tatiana through a hotel window as she lies in a field of rye.

Michael Richardson

Michael Richardson, a young, wealthy heir with no vocation. Cultured and brilliant, Michael, at the age of twenty-five, is engaged to Lol Stein. At a ball, however, he becomes infatuated with a stranger, Anne-Marie Stretter, and leaves at dawn with her. Rumors circulate that they separate after a few months and that he liquidates his...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Although its central character is clearly Lol Stein, the novel channels the story through Jack Hold and thus filters all details and perceptions through his obsession with Lol. Unlike the omniscient narrator of most realistic fiction, Jack cannot penetrate Lol’s mind, and so he must rely on information from Tatiana, Lol’s recollections, and his own observations. He attempts to piece together all these perspectives, rejecting everything that he believes to be biased or inaccurate. He uses the present tense frequently, presenting events as they occur, with little reflection or commentary. As a result of its perspective, then, the novel tends to depict its characters reticently, with little concern for a careful detailing of motives. In general, the main characters do not seem unmotivated or arbitrary; rather, the reader must deduce the motives from the minimal information supplied.

Lol herself is at various times distant, cool, passionate, unpredictable, and tragic. Practically nothing is known of her childhood; nothing prepares the reader for Lol’s extreme depression and withdrawal when Michael Richardson has left her for another woman. Their romance is presented in matter-of-fact terms, as is Lol’s paralysis during the dance, followed by her screaming fit when her mother attempts to make her leave. Lol’s subsequent madness, her meeting with John Bedford, and her marriage are also described undramatically, and the narrator glides over her ten years of married life in Uxbridge. Lol appears to have returned to normal, though she has a tendency to impose an extreme order on her life as a compensation for her...

(The entire section is 665 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cismaru, Alfred. Marguerite Duras, 1971.

Kristeva, Julia. “The Pain of Sorrow in the Modern World: The Works of Marguerite Duras,” in PMLA. CII, no. 2 (1987), pp. 138-152.

Murphy, Carol J. Alienation and Absence in the Novels of Marguerite Duras, 1982.

Schulz-Jander, Eva-Maria. “Marguerite Duras’ Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein: A Woman’s Long Search for Absence,” in Symposium. XL (Fall, 1986), pp. 223-233.

Willis, Sharon. Marguerite Duras: Writing on the Body, 1987.