OF THE BABY NAME PIERRE
Pierre Glendinning is the title character in Herman Melville’s 1852 novel, Pierre: or, The Ambiguities, which was a huge financial and critical failure for its author. That alone makes it worthy of scrutiny, as the writer of Moby- Dick is generally considered sacrosanct. Perhaps a misunderstood parody on contemporary melodramatic literature, Pierre’s story only seems to enhance the genre – whatever can happen to the guileless and innocent protagonist – does happen. Pierre is in line to his deceased father’s estate, but is at the mercy of his domineering mother. He does not marry her choice for him, Lucy, and instead runs off with a mysterious woman, Isabel, whom he believes to be his half-sister. He loses both the estate and Lucy’s hand to a cousin, and is unable to eke out a living by writing, no longer finding a connection between the grim realities of life and the soaring pretensions of acceptable literature. At novel’s end, he is a murderer, and he takes his own life. Poor Pierre – not much ambiguity there!
Pierre Michel is a character in Agatha Christie’s 1934 classic, Murder on the Orient Express, which was also made into a very stylish movie in 1974, with French actor Jean-Pierre Cassel playing the part. In the menagerie of characters that makes up the drama on the train, Pierre is the stoic Conductor who uses the duties of his job as his alibi for the night of the murder, and seems not to be involved. As the plot unfolds, however, Pierre’s connection to the victim becomes apparent, as does a potential motive. Pierre was the father of a nursemaid who committed suicide years earlier after being suspected in the kidnapping and death of her young charge, little Daisy Armstrong. The victim on the train was the actual murderer of the little girl, and had gotten off on a technicality. Is Pierre guilty, and if so, did he act alone? No spoilers here, but we’re pretty sure everyone already knows how this little masterpiece plays out.
Pierre Bezukhov is the main character in Leo Tolstoy’s great novel about the Napoleonic invasion of Russia in 1812 and its lasting consequences, War and Peace, first published in 1869. Pierre (largely considered to be the voice of Tolstoy) is the awkward and inept illegitimate son of an aristocrat who unexpectedly comes into a fortune – voila! – he is suddenly all the rage and no longer an outcast – ah, the power of mammon! Pierre himself is a good and kind young man, unpretentious and dangerously emotional. His initial involvement with the beautiful Helene is proof enough of that. In addition, his high-mindedness leads him to believe he will be of great assistance to humanity as the assassin of Napoleon Bonaparte. Altogether a bold-spirited young man! But as we know, life and its laws have many things in store for us: Pierre fights the good fight, but learns the lessons of humility and decency from a humble peasant. Beckoned toward a life of questioning and philosophizing, Pierre, against the backdrop of one of the most important world battles, come face-to-face with his own soul. Ultimately, he triumphs, as much as one man can, marries the beautiful Natasha and finds love and comfort within her arms. As portrayed by the beautiful young Henry Fonda in the 1956 film, there can be no finer fate.
M. Pierre Morrel is a character in Alexandre Dumas’ beloved adventure novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, completed in 1844. Pierre is a wonderful character – he is kind, gentle and honorable. He always looks out for those for whom he cares. The plot concerns the wrongs done to Edmond Dantes and his subsequent efforts to avenge himself; in the midst of this, our Pierre is a shining beacon of decency and valor, always striving for the highest good. Once the employer of Dantes, he does all he can in his power to help the young man. When his own fortunes fall to the wayside, he blames no one but himself and he sees no honorable way out but suicide; happily, he is allayed in this endeavor by Dantes. The world needs more M. Pierre Morrels in its midst – make no mistake of that!
Pierre Cosway is a character in Jean Rhys’ purported prequel to Jane Eyre, "Wide Sargasso Sea", a 1966 novel in which she sets the background for Mr. Rochester’s “madwoman (wife) in the attic”, Antoinette Cosway (Bertha Mason in the classic novel). Poor Pierre – sweet and innocent child that he is, his only part in the great drama is to be a foil for his sister, Antoinette, in that he is the much more beloved of their mother. That being the case, his illness and subsequent death drive his mother insane, and provide the catalyst for Antoinette’s future misadventures. Hardly an appropriate epitaph for one’s headstone, but such are the vagaries of fate.