Astrid Heyer

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis undertakes a chronological survey of the role of women in Georges Bernanos' imaginary world. Beginning with his first youthful attempts at short stories in 1907, it analyzes the author's complete fictional writings. This systematic study traces a growing preoccupation with women characters as the author's fictional universe evolves.;Indeed, all three of Bernanos' mature short stories ("Madame Dargent", "Une nuit", "Dialogue d'ombres") revolve around women. Four of his eight novels (La Joie, Un Crime, Un Mauvais reve and Nouvelle histoire de Mouchette) are also dominated by heroines rather than male protagonists. The place of women in his last fictional work, Dialogues des Carmelites, is, of necessity, preponderant.;The predominance of the Mouchette theme is shown to have appeared as early as 1919 with the co position of the author's first novel, Sous le soleil de Satan. Bernanos' famous "truc de Mouchette" is discussed, then followed throughout the entire corpus, since Mouchette's "all or nothing" attitude manifests itself in all major female characters. Whether adolescent girls or mature women, these characters are strong-willed, determined individuals, believing themselves to be extraordinary, unique beings. Among them, one finds rebellious, suspect, and sometimes even criminal females, destined to end either in a state of self-hatred or perish in despair. Beside them, however, must be set such heroines as Chantal de Clergerie and the Carmelites who attain joy through sacrifice.;In the author's ongoing endeavour to expose mankind's struggle between Good and Evil, even the "truc de Mouchette" yields in the end to a spiritual metamorphosis, confirming Bernanos' espousal of the Theresian idea that "all is grace".;By revealing that in Georges Bernanos' imaginary world women occupy an equal, if not superior, place to men, this thesis challenges the standard critical view of Bernanos as a novelist primarily obsessed with the priest.



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