The protagonist of the novel. Frédéric is passive and
lacks ambition, relying on an inheritance for financial support
and on his friends and acquaintances to help him enter bourgeois
society and meet women. Realistic to the point of pessimism, he
indulges his friend Deslauriers in discussing their grand plans
for the future but privately doubts that any of their dreams will
be realized. Motivated only by the thrill of the chase, he loses
interest once he gains someone or something. His driving passion
is his love for Madame Arnoux; however, when she finally returns
his feelings, he casts her aside. He lacks self-awareness and consequently
does not mature or develop throughout the course of the novel.
in-depth analysis of Frédéric Moreau.
Madame Marie Arnoux
The woman Frédéric pursues unsuccessfully for years.
Madame Arnoux represents a domestic, maternal figure for Frédéric,
satisfying his needs for safety and comfort. Although she finally returns
Frédéric’s feelings, she remains virtuous; Frédéric rejects her
sole attempt to become his lover. She represents his inability to
desire anything that he can actually have; when he gets her, he
no longer wants her.
Monsieur Jacques Arnoux
The husband of Frédéric’s love, Madame Arnoux. Monsieur
Arnoux becomes a friend of sorts to Frédéric, introducing him into
his social circle and taking him into his confidence. He never seems
to see Frédéric’s infatuation with Madame Arnoux, perhaps because
he is too involved in his own string of love affairs. Monsieur Arnoux
is an art dealer who had once aspired to be an artist. He eventually gives
up his art shop to become a factory owner.
Frédéric’s best friend. Deslauriers is a loyal friend
to Frédéric even when Frédéric snubs him to pursue Madame Arnoux.
Through the ups and downs of the men’s friendship, Deslauriers is
generally willing to forgive Frédéric’s less-than-admirable behavior. Eventually,
he tries to take some of Frédéric’s seeming good fortune for his
own. Deslauriers later becomes a successful clerk.
in-depth analysis of Charles Deslauriers.
Mademoiselle Rose-Annette Bron (Rosanette)
A courtesan, also called the Marshal because she
teases her guests about being their Marshal, or general. Rosanette
becomes a significant lover of Frédéric, eventually bearing him
a son who dies in infancy. Rosanette is “kept” by various men, including
Arnoux, Monsieur Oudry, Delmar, and Frédéric.
journalist who brings Frédéric into the Arnouxes’ home. Hussonnet
meets Frédéric at a demonstration, and this chance meeting leads
to Frédéric’s second meeting with Madame Arnoux.
artist who frequents Arnoux’s home and shop. Pellerin has a falling
out with Arnoux over Arnoux’s dishonest business practices. A painter,
Pellerin struggles throughout the novel to find a suitable definition
of beauty, and he eventually gives up painting to become a photographer.
widowed mother. Madame Moreau has grand ambitions for Frédéric and
pushes him to get patronage from his rich uncle Barthelemy.
acquaintance of Madame Moreau’s. Although Roque lost his reputation
from living with his housekeeper, he redeems it slightly when he
marries her. He is a steward for Monsieur Dambreuse and loaned a great
deal of money to Madame Moreau—only to then demand repayment, which
destroyed her financially. His daughter is Louise.
daughter and Frédéric’s intended wife. Louise meets Frédéric when
she is a child, and, as a grown woman, she falls in love with him.
Her father’s wealth entices Frédéric, but he eventually gives her
up to pursue other women. Louise ultimately marries Deslauriers.
math teacher and friend of Deslauriers’s. Frédéric tolerates him
for Deslauriers’s sake, but he does not enjoy his company. Senecal
becomes deeply involved in politics, joins the police, and ultimately
A friend of Frédéric’s from law school. Martinon
is a diligent student, and he is also acquainted with high society.
He is the lover of Madame Dambreuse but ultimately marries Monsieur Dambreuse’s
illegitimate daughter, Cecile, because he believes he will receive
a large inheritance.
illegitimate daughter. Cecile is slated to marry Cisy but ultimately
Marquis de Cisy
A wealthy friend of Deslauriers and Frédéric’s. Cisy
deeply offends Frédéric at dinner at the Dambreuses’ home by insulting
Madame Arnoux, and he and Frédéric face off in a duel. Cisy ultimately collapses.
A wealthy man whom Frédéric attempts to befriend.
Monsieur Dambreuse is initially uninterested in welcoming Frédéric
into his home, despite his letter of introduction from Roque. Eventually,
Frédéric befriends him and is welcomed into their social circle. Monsieur
Dambreuse wants to help Frédéric’s career, but Frédéric is more
interested in pursuing Madame Arnoux. When Monsieur Dambreuse dies,
he leaves his wife nothing.
The beautiful, high-society matron whom Frédéric
aspires to seduce. Madame Dambreuse seems to symbolize all that
is wonderful about high society, but when Frédéric eventually becomes
her intimate friend and then her lover, she reveals herself to be shallow
delivery man who tackles a policeman during a demonstration. Dussardier
is put in jail and is visited by Frédéric and Hussonnet, who offer
him cigars. He is of a lower social class than Frédéric. He eventually becomes
active in the fighting in Paris and is ultimately killed by Senecal.
of the men who frequents Arnoux’s shop. Regimbart drinks too much
and does not do any work. Nonetheless, Arnoux admires him. He is
sometimes referred to as “The Citizen.”
The woman who tells Madame Dambreuse that Frédéric
intends to give her money to Madame Arnoux.
A spinster and courtesan. Mademoiselle Vatnaz has
an array of loves and lovers, including Dussardier, Delmar the actor,
and possibly Arnoux. She has a cruel streak and attempts to ruin
Rosanette. The nature of her business is unclear.
Roque’s lover. Catherine takes the place of Louise’s biological
mother when she dies.
Monsieur Roque’s wife, whom he does not love. Eleonore’s
daughter is Louise.
Frédéric’s wealthy uncle. Although it seems unlikely
that Uncle Barthelemy will make Frédéric his heir, when he dies
a few days later, he does just this, making Frédéric rich.
actor. Delmar is the lover of Rosanette and Mademoiselle Vatnaz.
He becomes a politician.
man who keeps Rosanette. Oudry used to be Arnoux’s neighbor.
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