Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Germaine “Mouchette” Malorthy

Germaine “Mouchette” Malorthy (zhehr-MEHN mew-SHEHT mah-lohr-TEE), a sixteen-year-old murderess and suicide. Small, nymphlike, and intense, she unashamedly sets out to seduce both Dr. Gallet and Jacques de Cadignan. Pregnant by the latter, she threatens to expose him to public scorn and to the police if he does not agree to marry her. After Mouchette tells him that she is also the mistress of Dr. Gallet, however, he violently rapes her. She then shoots him in the throat, and it looks as though he committed suicide. She also attempts to blackmail Dr. Gallet into performing an abortion, but he refuses. She lies for the sake of lying and enjoys watching others suffer; she will do anything to get her own way. Her final attempt at seduction is with the saintly Father Donissan, who immediately recognizes her demoniac powers and offers her pity and forgiveness. She is so outraged by his generosity that she goes home and slits her throat.

Antoine Malorthy

Antoine Malorthy (ahn-TWAHN), the middle-aged father of Mouchette. A brewer by trade, he possesses all the manipulative cleverness of a northern French peasant. Although disturbed by the marquess of Cadignan’s sexual exploitation of his teenage daughter, he attempts to find ways by which the family can benefit financially from it. Antoine convinces the marquess that unless he makes some kind of monetary reparation for violating Antoine’s daughter, Antoine will make the marquess’ crime public.

Jacques de Cadignan

Jacques de Cadignan (zhahk deh kah-deen-YAH[N]), Mouchette’s lover, an impoverished nobleman, a forty-five-year-old pleasure-seeking member of a dying nobility. He relentlessly pursues the young women of his area of the Artois. Although somewhat paunchy, he is a charming gentleman, with soothing manners and pale, icy blue eyes. He has been seduced by the nymphette Mouchette, who tells him that he has impregnated her. She insists that he marry her and rear the child as his own, but he refuses.

Dr. Gallet

Dr. Gallet (gah-

(The entire section is 938 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Bernanos continually refers to Father Donissan as a saint and is obviously eager that the reader agree with him. He even provides a lone footnote crediting the priest with the miraculous restoration of sanity to the mother of the dead boy. The real proof of Donissan’s sanctity, however, lies in the priest’s extreme piety, his heroic struggle with evil, and his lifetime of good works.

Donissan is a man of disquieting extremes, the most important of these being his insuppressible masochism. The first time he is introduced, he is wearing a bloodstained hair shirt so tightly fastened that in places the skin has either been rubbed away or is in blisters “as broad as a hand-stretch.” Then there are his autoflagellations. On one horrible occasion, graphically described by Bernanos, he beats himself so mercilessly with a brass chain that he opens his back in one “burning wound, cut into strips, wet with steaming blood,” tearing off a chunk of flesh “like a chip of wood under a plane.”

Donissan walks a fine line between rationality and hallucination, between what is lived and what is imagined, between consciousness and sleep, between religious fervor and outright perversion. In certain quarters, such behavior might pass for evidence of true devotion to God, but too much is known about psychosexual pathology for the reader not to be skeptical about the motivation of such faith. Donissan’s purity does not suspend the reader’s...

(The entire section is 577 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Blumenthal, Gerda. The Poetic Imagination of Georges Bernanos: An Essay in Interpretation, 1965.

Bush, William. Georges Bernanos, 1969.

Guiomar, Michel. Georges Bernanos, “Sous le soleil de Satan”: Ou Les Tenebres de Dieu, 1984.

Hebblethwaite, Peter. Bernanos: An Introduction, 1965.

Speaight, Robert. Georges Bernanos: A Study of the Man and the Writer, 1974.