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 (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 (gah-LAY), a middle-aged physician and member of the local Chamber of Deputies. He has become Mouchette’s lover but is fearful of being found out. After Mouchette becomes pregnant, she insists that Dr. Gallet perform an abortion. He refuses on ethical grounds, but she threatens him with blackmail if he does not do as she wishes. After she commits suicide, he successfully keeps the facts of the situation quiet, thus protecting her family and himself. Everything he does is self-serving.
Father Donissan (doh-nee-SAH[N]), the saintly Curé of Lumbres. He is a powerfully built, intellectually dull, inarticulate, and awkward priest who is totally devoted to his parishioners. Because his natural instincts frighten him, particularly aspects of his bleak and violent nature, he flagellates himself, wears a hair shirt, and practices other techniques of self-mortification. To gain complete control over his feelings, he fasts and sleeps only a few hours each night. He is most fearful of the joy that spiritual pride may create within himself and leans heavily toward Jansenistic spiritualism. He is tempted by Satan himself when lost on a dark road late at night. He resists the consolations that Satan offers him and, as a result of his victory, attains the ability to read the souls of his parishioners, particularly in the confessional. He becomes a new Curé of Ars and spends the remainder of his life ministering to the souls of sinners. Mouchette commits suicide after he reveals the secrets of her soul to her.
Father Menou-Segrais (meh-NEW-seh-GRAY ), an aging canon of the parish of Compagne and spiritual director of Father Donissan. He is a clear-sighted and practical, though spiritual, guide for Father Donissan. Although he is heir to a huge fortune, he has chosen the priestly life and devotes himself to the needs of his flock and to the younger priests in the diocese. He believes that Father Donissan has...
(The entire section is 1,562 words.)