Georges Duroy (zhohrzh dew-RWAH), also called Bel-Ami (behl-ah-MEE), an ambitious young reporter and M. Walter’s employee. A complete rascal, he later assumes the more aristocratic name of Georges du Roy de Cantel (dew rway duh kawn-TEHL), and he shrewdly manipulates his acquaintances as he continues to rise in prominent social circles. With the help of Madeleine Forestier, whom he marries after her husband’s death, he receives an editorial position. Luckily for him, most women find the dashing ex-army officer irresistible; even the somewhat aloof Madame Walter is unable to resist his charms. At the opportune moment, Duroy accuses his wife of infidelity and wins a divorce, thus leaving him free to marry Suzanne, M. Walter’s lovely and wealthy young daughter.
Madeleine Forestier (mahd-LEEN foh-rehs-TYAY), Duroy’s wife after the death of her husband. A rather cool and calculating woman, she has the ability to evaluate accurately ambitious young men like Duroy. Knowing many prominent people, she shows him how to advance professionally and socially. But in him she finds her match. Before their divorce, he manages to assuage his “grief” with five hundred thousand francs from her fortune. Not one to look back in regret, Madeleine...
(The entire section is 517 words.)