Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Louis (lwee), a dying lawyer who comes to realize that his heart is a knot of vipers. Intelligent, cunning, greedy, unscrupulous, and incapable of love, Louis—as death approaches—writes a letter to be left to his wife. The letter, intended to explain his hatred for her and their children, becomes a diary of his dying days, a record of his life, and functionally an autobiography; ultimately, it becomes a confession of his spiritual journey to Christianity. The document rambles but is always coherent and organized as it records his unhappiness as a miser. In writing it, Louis comes to see his own selfish and evil nature, and he is transformed.

Isa Fondaudège

Isa Fondaudège (ee-SAH fon-doh-DEHZH), Louis’ wife. Self-sacrificing to Louis and the children, Isa is a remarkably strong person in dealing with such a serpent as her husband. She lives with him by honoring the rule of not having conversation with him about anything important, by being subservient, and by being devoted to the Catholic church and her children. Stable, steady, and always dependable, she never does anything unpredictable in her life, except to shock everyone by dying before Louis.


Hubert (ew-BEHR), Louis’ son, a stockbroker by trade. Cunning, greedy, and unscrupulous, Hubert is a nearly exact replication of...

(The entire section is 518 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Louis, the narrator-protagonist, writes his diary in an effort to escape solitude. He confesses to hatred, infidelity, and love of money in a desperate attempt to find sympathy and understanding. In the process of explaining or justifying himself, he documents those virtuous acts which have gone unnoticed and provide evidence for a more positive definition of his character. He views himself as the victim and the enemy, only to discover that other family members play the same roles. His lucidity and his courage to confront himself and others lead to a change of heart which illustrates his own dictum: “The art of living consists of sacrificing a lower passion for a higher one.”

Isa is at the center of Louis’ struggle. She holds the keys to understanding the absence of love that has driven him to claim money as the object of his heart. She is also the catalyst which releases years of anger, and her death precipitates his final detachment from worldly possessions. More important, as Louis attacks her silence, superficiality, and religious hypocrisy, he is better able to acknowledge her good qualities. In recognizing Isa’s, Louis is later prepared to accept the underlying goodness in other family members. Her second confession, of hurt at his unfaithfulness and anticipation of his return to her bed, tempts Louis, once again, to believe in love.

Like Isa, some of the other, less well developed, characters bring Louis to understand that he...

(The entire section is 433 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Batchelor, R. “Art and Theology in Mauriac’s Le Noeud de viperes,” in Nottingham French Studies. XII (1973), pp. 33-43.

Flower, John E. A Critical Commentary on Mauriac’s “Le Noeud de viperes,” 1969.

Flower, John E. Intention and Achievement: An Essay on the Novels of François Mauriac, 1969.

Paine, Ruth B. Thematic Analysis of François Mauriac’s “Genitrix,” “Le Desert de l’amour,” and “Le Noeud de viperes,” 1976.

Tartella, Vincent. “Thematic Imagery in Mauriac’s Vipers’ Tangle,” in Renascence. XVII (Summer, 1965), pp. 197-199.