In class on Thursday, we asked if this novel was gendered. On the surface it seems to be a pretty straight novel, there are no traces to homosexuality that I am aware of. However, there seems to be this weird role reversal in some characters.
Charles Langelet possesses this opposition to war that makes him girlish. If I am not mistaken, he is the one that packed up all of his precious statues and artistic pieces before leaving for Paris . His heart condition is what kept him from fighting in both wars. He is a creature of habit and therefore did not flee as early as he should have. Charles would not trade his “fragments of beauty” for a blood and death and incessant fighting. It seems to me that Charles Langelet runs from fighting in the way that a girl runs away in fear. He protects his statues by giving them the same attention a mother would give a child. Gabriel Corte is similar with his manuscript. He is a self-centered writer whose child is his manuscript. These two men bestow love and attention on inanimate objects.
Some of the orphans that Father Pericand takes to safety are described as having girlish features. They are small, which also implies a girlish physique.
Corbin’s dancer, despite being self-centered and a typical female gives what she has to Hubert at the motel. Her sacrifice is small, but she is transformed from this self-centered female character, to one that is able to give. (She retains her beauty despite the war going on with her American makeup. That is a bit farfetched, but perhaps in a perfect world.)
Madame Pericand takes on the saintly role of head of household as her family flees Paris. Since her husband is left behind, she is forced to take care of her father-in-law, her children, and her servants. You don’t see her breakdown until she has found out that she has lost two sons and her father-in-law to the war. It takes a multitude of disasters in order for her to let her emotions down—the news of three deaths.
The characters in Suite Francaise are gendered compared to characters in other books we have read this semester. The characters do not fall into this role reversal by their own choice, but rather by circumstances beyond their control. World War II had a way of changing people.