Valentin Brû (vah-lah[n]-TA[N] brew), an army private. Valentin is a very average young man whose real desire in life is to be a street sweeper. He allows himself to be courted by the middle-aged Julia and goes into shopkeeping when he marries her. They move to Paris, where Valentin runs a picture frame shop. He finds success when, disguised as a woman, he becomes a fortune-teller. He is drafted again as World War II approaches. The novel’s last image presents him at a train station helping girls and young women into the crowded train and fondling them as he does so. Valentin would like to be a saint, but he is quintessentially a petit bourgeois character who is quite satisfied with the little pleasures of life.
Julia Julie Antoinette Segovie
Julia Julie Antoinette Segovie (ahn-twah-NEHT say-goh-VEE), a middle-aged provincial haberdasher. The novel begins with her deciding to marry Valentin, a young soldier whom she has merely seen passing on the street. She succeeds in arranging this marriage, though she cannot take time away from business, so she sends Valentin on a honeymoon trip alone. She inherits a business in Paris from her mother but prefers to become a medium and allows Valentin to run the shop. She becomes ill and allows Valentin to replace her as “Madame Sophie.” Julia is a petit bourgeois...
(The entire section is 540 words.)