Rereading a sufficiently good novel often reveals surprises that the first time reader cannot be expected to find. I am struck in the opening pages of Swann’s Way how complete is the introduction of the major characters. The introductions are brief and one has the sense of Proust inserting them in to order to give himself a sense of unity of composition.
- Marcel and his family, foremost being the mother and grandmother.
- Gilberte, first as Mme Saint-Loup (6) and then as the unnamed daughter of Swann (30)
- Swann, as the friend of the family, especially Marcel’s grandfather. (16)
- Mme de Villeparisis, a school friend of the grandmother. (25)
- The Guermantes, as the des Laumes, the nephew and niece of Mme de Villeparisis. (25) Perhaps the grandmother is referring to the Duke, who she meets at her friend’s and refers to as “so common.” And we should not overlook Geneviève de Brabant, the Guermantes’s ancestor, who is projected on Marcel’s bedroom wall. (11)
- Jupien and his daughter, shopkeepers chez Mme de Villeparisis. (25)
- Odette, ” woman of the worst type, almost a prostitute.” (26)
- Vinteuil, a neighbor. (32)
- M. de Charlus, who “lives with” Odette. (45)
Just about every major character is here, excepting Albertine, who had not yet been conceived by Proust as a character.
Tags: dramatis personae