Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Sainte-Agathe. French village where Francois Seurel spends most of his childhood. His parents are the village schoolteachers and the family lives in the buildings of the secondary school, which is at the far end of the village, bounded by a road, gardens, and meadows. The schoolhouse is large and much of it remains unused. For Seurel, it is the only world he knows, as a disability has kept him from exploring the countryside with the other village boys. This changes with the arrival of Augustin Meaulnes, who encourages him to become more independent. Even at this stage, Seurel’s knowledge of the village does not extend beyond its main streets. When he and Meaulnes are obliged to enter a quarter known as the Petits-Coins, Seurel knows only one street in the area, that which leads to his mother’s dressmaker. Places beyond the village are little more than names allied to the method of transport needed to reach them. Seurel and Meaulnes, who come from some distance away, have little awareness of the area’s geography, which is why they cannot identify the mysterious domain visited by Meaulnes.

French countryside

French countryside. The landscape beyond the village is rural, a mixture of fields and woods. In winter, when the reader is first introduced to the area, it is bleak and deserted. In fact, Meaulnes is almost literally in the dark as most of his journey to and from the domain occurs either in the late afternoon or at night. Emphasis is placed on the emptiness and the difficulty of traveling; it is an inward-turning landscape. The summer landscape consists of green woodland, clear streams, and dusty roads, where people hunt and swim, cycle or walk, an...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Blair, Fredrika. Introduction to The Wanderer, by Alain-Fournier, translated by Françoise Delisle. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1953. An analysis of Alain-Fournier’s style that connects it to the impressionist and symbolist movements in art and literature. The translation of the work has been superseded by later ones.

Fowles, John. Afterword to The Wanderer, by Alain-Fournier, translated by Lowell Bair. New York: New American Library, 1971. A well-known British novelist explains his enthusiasm for the novel and shows why he thinks the work must be read on its own terms and why it resists conventional critical analysis.

Gibson, Robert. The Land Without a Name: Alain-Fournier and His World. London: Paul Elek, 1975. A thorough, dense, yet accessible study that reviews all previous scholarship on Alain-Fournier as well as his posthumously published correspondence. Uses the theme of the lost paradise as its organizing principle.

Gurney, Stephen. Alain-Fournier. Boston: Twayne, 1987. A complete introduction to the writer and his work. Relates The Wanderer to Alain-Fournier’s poems and letters, especially the ones he wrote to his brother-in-law, who was a literary and psychological soulmate. Contains a good selected bibliography.

Jones, Marian Giles. A Critical Commentary on Alain-Fournier’s “Le Grand Meaulnes.” New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1968. Reviews many important themes of the novel in detail and provides a good starting point for further discussion. Not as comprehensive as Gibson but easier to use in an analysis of the novel.