Charles Demailly (shahrl deh-mah-YEE), a writer. Burdened with a loneliness and a super-sensitivity that make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to find satisfaction in real life, he falls in love with an ingenue, Marthe Mance, and endows her with the perfection of which he has always dreamed. When, by her shallowness, insincerity, and cruel treatment, she finally destroys his image of her, his creativity is also destroyed, and he sinks into apathy and, finally, into madness.
Marthe Mance (mahrt mahns), an actress and Charles Demailly’s wife, who is endowed by her husband with qualities of perfection which, in reality, she has never possessed. Enchanted at first by her husband’s play, in which she is the idealized heroine, she begins to show her shallowness and insincerity when the production is unfavorably criticized and she fears for her own success as its leading lady. Step by step, she then destroys Charles’s image of her until she has destroyed the man himself.
Nachette (nah-SHEHT) and
Couturat (kyew-too-RAH) , writers for Scandal, a journal that thrives on gossip, superficial aesthetic criticism, and sensationalism.
Chavannes (shah-VAHN), Charles Demailly’s boyhood friend, who encourages him in his efforts at serious writing.
Remonville (ruh-mohn-VEEL), a writer and Charles Demailly’s friend.
Boisroger (bwah-roh-ZHAY), a poet who introduces Charles Demailly to a circle of serious artists.