Adolphe, a precocious young man, the narrator. Influenced by his constrained relationship with his father and the strong, unconventional opinions of an older woman of whom he has been a protégé, he finds himself in conflict with himself and with the highly conventional, mediocre society of a small German principality. He sets about the conquest of Ellénore and finally succeeds in winning her away from Count P————. Even while basking in the joys of love, he is annoyed by its constraints. This conflict brings much unhappiness both to him and to Ellénore and ends only when he is freed by her death, which leaves him desolate.
Ellénore, the mistress of Count P———— and later of Adolphe. After sharing Count P————’s life for ten years, she gives in to Adolphe’s suit and becomes his mistress. Although she is soon aware of his resentment over the constraints that such an affair inevitably places on its participants, she tries desperately to hold on to his love. Unable to prevent the final deterioration of their relationship, she becomes mortally ill.
Count P————, Ellénore’s lover of ten years and the acknowledged father of her children. Even after her flight with Adolphe, he offers to settle her again in suitable circumstances, only to have his offer refused.
Baron T————, a friend of Adolphe’s father who is asked to influence the young man to make a final break with Ellénore.