French Stories Characters

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French Stories Summary & Study Guide Description

French Stories Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on French Stories by André Gide.

The Prodigal Sonappears in The Return of the Prodigal Son

The prodigal son is a character Andre Gide borrows from Christ's parable in the Gospel of Luke. According to the parable, the son of a very wealthy man runs away from home hoping to find pleasures in foreign lands. He winds up poor and miserable and returns to his father, who mercifully and joyfully accepts him. The Catholic interpretation of this suggests that the return to the father's house indicates a return the Catholic Church and, therefore, stresses the importance of being Catholic. This is the interpretation that Gide has in mind in this story.

After narrating the story up to the point where Christ's parable ends, Gide invents the rest. The prodigal son explains that he does not altogether regret leaving. Though the pleasures outside of his father's house were more fleeting and he had to endure quite a bit of hardship, it was still worth it. He felt confined in the house. There was such a pressure to conform and think like everyone else that there was no space for his own individual, personal development. He felt compelled, as if by duty, to leave and discover who he truly was. He returned only out of a kind of laziness. It is easier to just accept doctrines from authority; it is much harder to play the role of skeptic and try to discover truth for oneself. In this sense, the prodigal son represents a kind of failure or compromise. He was not able to complete the journey to self-realization. His younger brother rebukes him for this and promises to finish what his brother left incomplete.

Judasappears in The Death of Judas

Judas is one of Christ's Apostles whom Claudel gives a voice in "The Death of Judas." Claudel's Judas is an exceptionally proud but also exceptionally practical man. He believes that he is the greatest of all of the Apostles or, at least, the most refined and sophisticated. He seems to be ashamed that he has to share his title with fishermen like Peter and John. Judas is given control over the finances for Christ's ministry. As they all live very poorly, he does not have much to work with, but prides himself on his ability to make so little money stretch so far. He likens his financial "miracles" to the literal miracles Christ performed.

Judas does not care for the impractical nature of Christ's ministry. The miracles Christ's performs, he notes, tend really not to make the world a better place; at least, Judas' pessimistic nature does not let him see the effects. Jerusalem is accustomed to cripples, he says, and the economy is based on the assumption that people will die, an assumption which is undermined whenever Christ raises someone from the dead. He hates how divisive Christ's message are and is not surprised at how many enemies Christ has created for himself among Jews and Pagans alike. Judas, for his part, is far more diplomatic: "As for me, I am a pagan with pagans, I am a Christian from Christians; and I am a camel-driver with the children of Ishmael" (185). It is ultimately Judas' worldliness which leads him to betray Christ. He is outraged when Mary Magdalen spends all of the ministry's funds to buy perfume to anoint Christ with. He is even more shocked when Christ's rebukes him for chastising her. He decides, at that moment, that Christ will create more problems than he will solve and thus, for the good of society, he must be arrested. He claims not to realize that the temple officials will kill his master—though their violent intentions were rather clear—and kills himself after he sees what has been done.

Micromegasappears in Micromegas

Micromegas is a giant (he is 120,000 feet tall) who is from the planet Sirius.

Despleinappears in The Mass of the Atheist

Desplein is a renowned surgeon and professed atheist. He seems to waver on the question of unbelief, though, and regularly attends Mass for the repose of his dead friend's soul.

Julianappears in The Legend of Saint Julian Hospitaler

Julian is a Catholic saint whose life Gustave Flaubert recreates in "The Legend of Saint Julian Hospitaler." He is born to wealthy parents but shows a violent, sadistic nature from an early age. One of the animals he cruelly slays prophesies that he will one day kill his parents. Scared by the prophecy and by its near-fulfillment when he barely misses his mother with a javelin, he runs from home and joins a band of adventures. He becomes a famous and revered conqueror and winds up settling down in a castle of his own. When his parents come to visit him, he mistakes his mother for his wife and his father as another man and kills both of them. When he realizes his mistake, and gives up his wealth to dedicate himself to penance. He meets Christ in the form of a leper and is taken up to Heaven.

The Old Clownappears in The Spleen of Paris - The Old Clown

Among the various entertainers at a holiday celebration is an old, decrepit clown. The narrator is torn between pity for the clown and social pressure to shun him; the latter ultimately wins out.

The Older Brotherappears in The Return of the Prodigal Son

The prodigal son's older brother represents the strict, dogmatic nature of the Church, which insists that one must belong to the Catholic Church in order to know God and be saved.

The Younger Brotherappears in The Return of the Prodigal Son

The younger brother represents the logical conclusion of the prodigal son's flight from home. He tells the prodigal son that he intends to leave home but, unlike his brother, plans never to return.

Dutilleulappears in The Passer-Through-Walls

Dutilleul is a government clerk who discovers he has the power to travel through walls. At first, he makes little use of his ability, but eventually turns to burglary. He becomes trapped in a wall when he accidentally takes a pill that cures his condition.

Daruappears in The Guest

Daru is an Algerian schoolteacher. He is morally torn between his sympathy for the Arab rebels and his dedication to France.

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