Thérèse Tarde (tay-REHZ tahrd), a twenty-year-old violinist engaged to Florent France. Honest and innocent, she attempts to overcome the moral and cultural deprivation she inherited from her parents. Her beauty and personality attract two opposing characters: Gosta, her mother’s lover, and Florent, a wealthy, socially prominent musician. Despite Gosta’s demonstrations of affection, she loves Florent for his musical talents, sensitivity, and correctness. Oblivious to her parents’ pleas for marriage on materialistic grounds, she is attracted to his noble character. Her honesty induces guilt for her degenerate and sordid background, thereby alienating her from Florent’s upright, affluent world. Shame impels her to reveal this division. During her engagement to Florent, she invites her father to Florent’s house. His obscenity and pettiness demonstrate the obstacles between her and Florent. She decides to leave Florent, who, overcome by the pain of unrequited love, acknowledges their differences but, through this suffering, identifies with Thérèse. After hearing of Florent’s remorse, Thérèse believes that she has reconciled her degenerate background with Florent’s noble world. Traces of her “race” intrude: The seamstresses and maids do not belong in these surroundings and contrast with Florent’s aunt, Madame Bazin, and his sister Marie. Gosta arrives to assassinate Florent. Although Thérèse prevents the killing, hope in the uniting of the two contrary realities dissolves into a self-understanding of her alienation. Morally, she is separated from the society of her parents; socially, she cannot adapt to Florent’s world. Maturity and a realistic look at the situation incite her departure from both worlds and lead her to solitude and despair.
Florent France (floh-REH[N] frahns), a wealthy pianist and Thérèse’s fiancé. Morally upright and sensitive, he is attracted to...
(The entire section is 831 words.)