The problem with where Michel is clearly heading – into either some sort of infatuation with Charles the estate manager’s son or some growing interest in boys that started with those he met on his travels in Tunis – is that you feel sorry for his wife.
He starts leading a double life, which is made even more duplicitous because he starts leading his own life while his wife stays at home pregnant. After his health returns and they start to make love he really does seem to be in love with her and they return to France and move to a property in his family that has not been lived in for a while.
The estate manager is running the place and tries to make life comfortable for them and the wife seems happy enough but once the estate manager’s son comes home from studying on a model farm Michel is very much influenced by him, despite him only being 17, and starts to take his advice on the estate management front. The result is that things start to change but the teenager has to go back to his studies leaving the farm in the hands of the ageing estate manager and tenants who have no loyalty.
According to the blurb on the dust jacket this fight with immorality is something that Gide himself had to cope with in his life but you have to hand him the credit because it in no reads like a confessional.