Louis Pian (lwee pyah[n]), the elderly narrator of the story, a landowner, the illegitimate son of Marthe Pian and her first cousin, Alfred Moulis. He is thirteen years old when the story begins. He lost his beloved mother when he was seven years old, in a suicide “accident.” When his sister, Michèle, and his best friend, Jean, fall in love, he is jealous of both of them and tries to keep them apart. He betrays a confidence by showing his stepmother a letter from his teacher M. Puybaraud to Octavie Tronche. Deprived of intimacy and sexual satisfaction himself (being self-centered and dispassionate, he never marries), he resents and affects to despise intimacy in others.
Brigitte Pian (bree-ZHEET), Louis’ stepmother and his mother’s cousin, a pillar of the church. She has dark eyes, big ears, a double chin, and long, yellow teeth with gold fillings. Although unlike Louis in her passionate temperament, she resembles him in being deprived of intimacy and sexual satisfaction and in reacting resentfully by trying to spoil love for others, including Léonce Puybaraud and Octavie Tronche, Michèle Pian and Jean de Mirbel, and Octave and Marthe Pian. She also delights in crushing opponents, such as Abbé Calou. Self-righteous, proud, and hypocritical, she convinces herself that she is God’s mouthpiece and enjoys the sadistic manipulation of people’s lives. She overcompensates for feelings of sexual inferiority through an attitude of superiority and her will to power. She persecutes the Puybaraud family and reduces them to dependence on her handouts, and she contributes to Octavie’s miscarriage and death.
Marthe Pian (mahrt), Louis’ mother, who committed suicide when her lover, first cousin Alfred Moulis, terminated their affair.
Octave Pian (ohk-TAHV), Louis’ supposed father, a landowner. He wears a long mustache and is fond of eating and of hunting on his country estate. He is kind but weak and hesitant, except on rare occasions, and frequently has been paralyzed into impotence by his love for his first wife, Marthe. He probably drank himself to death after reading the letters revealing his wife’s affair with her cousin and Louis’ probable...
(The entire section is 969 words.)