But this is not the Michel his colleagues knew, nor the man Marceline married, and he must hide his new values under the patina of what he now reviles. Bored by Parisian society, he moves to a family farm in Normandy. He is happy there, especially in the company of young Charles, but he must soon return to the city and academe. Michel remains restless until he gives his first lecture and runs into Ménalque, who has long outraged society, and recognizes in him a reflection of his torment. Finally, Michel heads south, deeper into the desert, until, as he confides to his friends, he is lost in the sea of sand, under a clear, directionless sky.
What Gide's story lacks in sensationalism is fulfilled by his descriptive prose, which evokes the exotic nature of Michel's inner and outer journey: "I did not understand the forbearance of this African earth, submerged for days at a time and now awakening from winter, drunk with water, bursting with new juices; it laughed in this springtime frenzy whose echo, whose image I perceived within myself." --Joannie Kervran Stangeland