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Madame Aubain
Madame Aubain employs Félicité in her service for half a century. At the beginning of Félicité's employment Madame is the mother of Paul, seven, and Virginie, four, and the widow of a man who has left her with many debts. Although Madame Aubain rarely displays affection or appreciation for her servant, Félicité is deeply devoted to her and in many ways protects her. It is Félicité who bargains with tradespeople, who eases obnoxious visitors out of the house, who saves the family from an angry bull they encounter during an outing. When Virginie dies, it is Félicité who keeps vigil by the body and tends the grave, since Madame is too overcome to do so. Most of Félicité's possessions, including the parrot, Loulou, are Madame's castoffs. When Madame dies, few mourn her; she always kept people at a distance. Félicité, on the other hand, is devastated.

Félicité is Madame Aubain's faithful servant and the central character of the story. She is a woman of simple mind and simple heart, a believer in the supernatural, clean living, and hard work. Orphaned early in her life, she is a cow-herder and dairy girl until a broken heart compels her to leave and seek work in a nearby town, Pont-l'Évêque. Thus, at eighteen, she is hired by Madame Aubain as a cook and housemaid. She soon takes over the running of the household while forming a succession of deep emotional attachments to Madame and her two children, to her own nephew, and ultimately to her parrot, Loulou. When the parrot dies, she has it stuffed and keeps it in her room.

Although Félicité's devotion is almost never reciprocated or appreciated, her need to love never flags. Despite a life of hard work, repeated disappointment, and the gradual loss of everyone dear to her, she is unwavering in her faith. As she grows older, she begins to confuse the stuffed parrot with images of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove that she sees in religious paintings and stained-glass windows. As she lies dying of pneumonia, she has a vision of the heavens opening and the Holy Ghost descending upon her in the form of a giant parrot, and she dies smiling.

Loulou the parrot is the final love of Félicité's life. He originally belongs to the wife of a government official whose family pays social calls on Madame Aubain. Because the bird comes from America, he reminds Félicité of her nephew, Victor, who died in Cuba. When the official is transferred to another district, the wife gives the parrot to Madame Aubain, but his habits so annoy her that she turns him over to Félicité. Félicité becomes very attached to him. When he goes missing one day Félicité searches for him all over town. The bird eventually returns on his own, but in searching for him Félicité has caught a chill, and the ensuing illness leaves her deaf. Subsequently the only sound she seems able to hear is that of the parrot repeating his meaningless phrases.

When Loulou dies, Félicité has him stuffed and puts him in her bedroom. Noting his resemblance to certain depictions of the Holy Spirit, she gradually begins to focus her prayers on the dead bird as a sort of religious icon. As she lies dying, she has a vision of the parrot as the Holy Spirit, and she dies smiling.

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Madame Aubain's son and Virginie's brother, Paul is seven-years-old when Félicité enters the family's service. Félicité quickly becomes attached to both the boy and...

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his sister and is saddened when he is sent away to school in Caen at a young age. As an adult, Paul passes from one unsuccessful career to another, spending his time in taverns and running up debts which his mother pays off. At the age of thirty-six, shortly before his mother's death, he finds apparent success at the Registrar's Office, where an inspector offers Paul his daughter's hand and a promotion.

Félicité's first and only romantic interest, Theodore is a farmhand who meets Félicité at a fair when she is eighteen. A night after Félicité resists his passionate overtures, Theodore proposes marriage. One day, however, he fails to show up for one of their meetings, sending a friend to say that he has decided to marry a wealthy elderly woman, Madame Lehoussais, whom he hopes will pay to protect him from conscription into the army. Félicité then leaves the farm and goes to the town of Pont-l'Évêque, where she is hired by Madame Aubain. Many years later Félicité overhears a comment that suggests Madame Lehoussais did not marry Theodore after all, but the matter is never resolved.

Victor is Félicité's nephew and one of her many profound and simple attachments. She first discovers his existence when she is visiting the seaside with the Aubain family and comes across one of her sisters—Victor's mother—whom she has not seen since she was a child. Félicité asks that Victor be allowed to visit her after Virginie is sent away to school. Félicité dotes on Victor, cooks him dinner, and mends his clothes. He, on the other hand, at the urging of his parents, never fails to ask her for food or money to take home. Eventually he signs on as a cabin boy on a ship sailing to America. Félicité walks the twelve miles to Honfleur to see him off, but the ship is leaving and she merely gets a glimpse of him as it pulls out. Months later she learns that he has died in Cuba: the doctors bled him too severely while treating him for yellow fever. Victor is one of the reasons for Félicité's attachment to the parrot, Loulou—Loulou reminds her of America, the place where Victor died.

The daughter of Madame Aubain, Virginie is four when Félicité enters the household. A close call with an angry bull leaves the child suffering from a nervous complaint, and the whole family spends several weeks at the seaside in an attempt to cure her. Félicité accompanies her to her catechism classes, where the housemaid develops a fervent if simple religious faith; Félicité experiences Virginie's first communion as profoundly as if it were her own. Soon thereafter the child is sent away to a convent school, and Félicité is deeply grieved. When Virginie dies of a lung infection, Félicité keeps a vigil by the body, and later she visits Virginie's grave every day. Both Madame and Félicité mourn deeply for her, and their shared grief leads to Madame's one reported open display of affection towards her housemaid. A moth-eaten hat that belonged to Virginie is one of Félicité's most precious possessions.