A Woman’s Life Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Une Vie, 1883 (English translation, 1888)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Naturalism

Time of work: Early nineteenth century

Locale: Normandy and Corsica

Characters DiscussedJeanne de Lamare

Jeanne Woman’s Life, Ade 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

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

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

Baron Simon-Jacques Le Perthuis des Vauds(see-MOH[N] 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

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

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

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.

BibliographyDonaldson-Evans, Mary. A Woman’s Revenge: The Chronology of Dispossession in Maupassant’s Fiction. Lexington: French Forum, 1986. A structural analysis of the chronological development in the way Maupassant depicts the relations between men and women.Harris, Trevor A. Le V. Maupassant in the Hall of Mirrors. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. Posits that Maupassant’s use of irony is an attempt to separate himself from and to criticize the excesses of French society. Examines Maupassant’s narratives and journalism and focuses on his narrative technique, syntax, characterization, structure, and imagery.Lerner, Michael G. Maupassant. New York: George Braziller, 1975. Reviews Maupassant’s early life, his tutelage under Gustave Flaubert, the influence of Émile Zola, and the use of naturalistic techniques in Maupassant’s work. Includes photographs.Sullivan, Edward D. Maupassant the Novelist. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 1954. Reviews aesthetics and theme in Maupassant’s novels. Addresses the function of a critic, the opposition between realism and idealism, style, and Maupassant’s objective point of view. The author traces a subtle but growing element of the psychological in Maupassant’s last three novels. Presents A Woman’s Life as a collection of short stories about a central, passive character.Wallace, A. H. Guy de Maupassant. New York: Twayne, 1973. Depicts Maupassant’s fiction as reflections of the life of a “doer” rather than an observer. Offers analysis of specific themes in the author’s work, including infidelity, female servitude in marriage, and naturalism.
Categories: Characters