Author: Guy de Maupassant
First published: Une Vie, 1883 (English translation, 1888)
Locale: Normandy and Corsica
Time: Early nineteenth century
Jeanne de Lamare (zhahn deh lah-MAHR), the woman whose life is recounted from young womanhood to the time she becomes a grandmother. As an innocent young girl, just out of a convent, she goes to live in the country with her parents. There, she marries a man whom she soon discovers to be parsimonious and unfaithful to her. Jeanne bears a child, on whom she lavishes all of her affection. She then discovers that her husband is unfaithful to her again, this time with the wife of a neighboring count. The count kills his wife and Julien, and the rest of Jeanne's life is spent catering to the extravagant whims of her son.
Julien de Lamare (zhew-LYAN), Jeanne's thoroughly reprehensible husband. He manages the estate in a penurious manner, and he fathers a child by the maid. Later, he takes Countess de Fourville as his mistress. He is killed when the count discovers him with the countess.
Paul de Lamare, Jeanne's son, whom she spoils completely. He runs away from school and spends the next few years asking for and getting money from his mother. He writes to ask her permission to marry his mistress. When she does not approve, he marries the girl anyway, and they have a child. After his wife dies, he returns home with his daughter.
Baron Simon-Jacques Le Perthuis des Vauds (see-MOHN zhahk leh pehr-TWEE day voh), Jeanne's father, whose liberal style of living reduces his family to living quietly in the country. He finally dies of apoplexy caused by worry over his grandson and his property.
Rosalie, the maid, who is also Jeanne's foster sister. She has an illegitimate child by Julien, and she and the child are sent away. After Julien's death, she returns to look after Jeanne.
The Countess Gilberte de Fourville (zheel-BEHRT deh fewr-VEEL), a neighbor with whom Julien goes riding almost every day and with whom he is having an affair.
The Count de Fourville, Gilberte's husband, who loves her passionately. When he learns that she and Julien are in a shepherd's hut together, he pushes the hut over a cliff and kills them both.
Abbé Tolbiac (ah-BAY tohl-BYAHK), the village priest, very much concerned with his parishioners'morals. When he finds out about the affair between Gilberte and Julien, he tells the count.