Lucien Leuwen (lew-SYAH[N] lew-VAH[N]), the hero of this unfinished novel. The son of a rich banker, he is expelled from school for expressing mild republican leanings, and he becomes an officer in a regiment of lancers going to maintain order at Nancy. There he falls in love with a wealthy, aristocratic widow, but he is tricked into leaving her. Obtaining a government post in Paris through his father’s influence, he is successful until he is disillusioned because of a love affair. On his father’s death, he insists on full payment to creditors and salvages only a modest income for himself and his mother. Given an embassy appointment, he is only mildly melancholy for his lost love.
Bathilde de Chasteller
Bathilde de Chasteller (bah-TEELD deh shas-tehl-LAY), a beautiful, aristocratic widow, Lucien’s true love. The aristocratic young men of the town are afraid that he will marry her and take her and her money away.
Dr. du Poirier
Dr. du Poirier (dew pwahr-YAY), a physician and the leader of the monarchist set in Nancy. He tricks Lucien into leaving Bathilde by making him think that her several days’ illness is confinement to childbed.
Monsieur Leuwen, Lucien’s father. Charming and wealthy, he is ambitious both for his son and for himself. Powerful enough to dictate who shall be in the Cabinet, he arranges to have a fatuous man given a post in exchange for his wife’s becoming Lucien’s mistress.
Madame Grandet (grahn-DAY), a beautiful and ambitious woman. “Bought” for Lucien, she comes to love him. Learning the truth, however, he is greatly upset and leaves Paris.