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A young man of leisure and the novel’s protagonist. Anthony Patch lives excessively and lazily. His income consists of what he has inherited from his parents, and he looks forward to the day he inherits his wealthy grandfather’s estate. He also fancies himself an intellectual even though he has nothing to show for it other than carrying himself as a superior academic. When Anthony meets the equally excessive Gloria, the two fall in love and begin a tumultuous life together. As the years go by, the two entertain, drink, and spend themselves into oblivion. Once Anthony is disinherited, he continues to live lavishly despite the financial consequences. Without any impulse to find a job to replace his income, Anthony slowly spirals into hard alcoholism while his marriage declines.
A young New York socialite and eventually Anthony’s wife. She is the novel’s second protagonist, a society girl who values her beauty above all else. She believes her beauty grants her rights and privileges that others do not possess. Her marriage to Anthony becomes fraught after their income is taken away, and she is forced to reckon with her declining beauty. However, she does not fall as hard as her husband.
A wealthy tycoon and Anthony’s grandfather. Adam Patch raised Anthony after Anthony’s parents’ death. He provides an income so that Anthony can live a life of leisure. Adam Patch devoutly believes in temperance and prohibition. When he discovers that his finances have been used to fuel alcohol-filled parties for most of Anthony’s adult life, Adam Patch disinherits him before his death.
A writer and friend of Anthony. Richard Caramel attended Harvard with Anthony and Maury, and he is Gloria’s cousin. He enjoys early success in his writing career once his novel The Demon Lover is finally published. Richard proceeds to write numerous mediocre works and film treatments over the years, and he fails to realize that he has compromised his talent.
A Harvard graduate and friend of Anthony and Richard. Maury Noble is a cynic who believes his achievements are worthless in the grand scheme of the world. However, he becomes just as successful as Richard Caramel and eventually becomes a foil to a down-and-out Anthony.
A Jewish motion picture producer. Joseph Bloeckman is Gloria’s older suitor until he loses her to Anthony. Joseph built his success through his ambition, and so he serves as Anthony’s foil. Over the years he reconnects with Gloria as a friend, and he offers her a film test. In the end, Anthony’s victory over Bloeckman is not so clear-cut.
A young woman with whom Anthony has an affair while in army training. Anthony is initially obsessed with Dorothy because she is a distraction from training and the physical separation from his wife. But the moment Dorothy expresses her love for Anthony, he grows cold. Dorothy’s presence becomes threatening in Anthony’s life and factors into his ultimate downfall.
A Bilphist and Gloria’s mother. Mrs. Gilbert at first comes off as eccentric and complacent. But her concern for Gloria’s happiness trumps any fault in her character.
The sober secretary to Adam Patch. Shuttleworth replaces Anthony as Adam’s heir when he is disinherited. It is reported that he has died by suicide after Anthony and Gloria win their lawsuit against him.
A Japanese servant at Anthony and Gloria’s house in Marietta. Tana is persistently infantilized by Anthony and despised by Gloria.