Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Corporal

The Corporal, a Christlike soldier. Accompanied by his twelve squad members, the Corporal brings about a cease fire along the entire Western front by preaching peace on earth. His story bears a strong yet often subtle resemblance to the life of Christ, the Passion, and the Crucifixion as events unfold that correspond in some degree to the birth, the betrayal, the denial, the Last Supper, and the death of Christ. Refusing an offer of freedom, the Corporal is executed between two murderers and buried at his sister’s farm. Shellfire destroys the grave, but, ironically, his body is recovered and placed in the Unknown Soldier’s tomb. These events suggest resurrection and immortality of a sort.

The Marshal

The Marshal, commander-in-chief of the Allied armies in France. As a young man stationed in the Middle East, he had seduced a woman and fathered a son who turns out to be the Corporal. The old man never seems surprised by the turn of events and apparently is omniscient. He offers the Corporal an opportunity to escape but must order his execution when he refuses.

General Gragnon

General Gragnon, the French division commander. When his regiment refuses to attack the German line, he arrests the entire three thousand and insists upon his own arrest. While in prison, he is executed by a brutal American soldier named Buchwald.

The Quartermaster General

The Quartermaster General, the Marshal’s former fellow student. After the Corporal’s execution, he loses faith in the cause for which the Marshal stands.

The Runner

The Runner, a former officer. Sympathizing with the Corporal’s aims, he is crippled in a surprise barrage while fraternizing with the Germans. At the Marshal’s funeral, he throws a medal obtained at the Corporal’s grave at the caisson and shouts his derision and defiance.


Marthe, the Corporal’s younger half sister.


Marya, the Corporal’s feeble-minded half sister.


Polchek, the soldier in the Corporal’s squad who betrays him.

Pierre Bouc

Pierre Bouc, the soldier in the Corporal’s squad who denies him.

The Corporal’s Wife

The Corporal’s Wife, a former prostitute.


Buchwald, the American soldier who executes General Gragnon.

The Reverend Tobe Sutterfield

The Reverend Tobe Sutterfield, an African American preacher.

David Levine

David Levine, a British flight officer who commits suicide.