Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 324
Charles Forestier was in the same cavalry unit as George Duroy in North Africa, and becomes his career sponsor. He is a successful journalist in Paris whose wife takes Duroy in hand both professionally and socially, but she rebuffs Duroy's sexual advances until after Forestier's death.
Clotilde de Marelle is a friend of the Forestiers. Her husband is often away and she becomes George Duroy's main adulterous lover.
The Comte de Vaudrec is a long time friend and sponsor of Madeleine Forestier. Although it is never clarified, there is perhaps some close romantic or family tie behind their relationship. She may be an unacknowledged daughter of the count or a old lover.
George Duroy is a scoundrel who rises to become editor in chief of a major French newspaper, La Vie Française. He comes from nothing, knows little, honors less, and believes in nothing apart from advancing his own career, usually through more powerful women. He represents the vacuousness of post-revolutionary middle-class culture.
Madeleine Forestier is the wife of Charles. Upon his death, she marries Duroy and continues to sponsor his rise by editing or ghostwriting his articles and introducing him to the politically powerful. She becomes disillusioned with Duroy and takes a lover. Duroy is resentful, as always, and takes a lover himself out of spite.
Monsieur Laroche-Mathieu is Madeleine Forestier's lover. He is a successful politician that owes much of his success to her patronage and the influence of the newspaper La Vie Française.
Rachel is a Parisian prostitute friend of Duroy's that he turns to in hard times.
Monsieur Walter owns the newspaper, La Vie Française, and acts as its chief editor.
Virginie Walter is the newspaper owner's wife and later becomes yet another of Duroy's lovers.
Suzanne Walter is their young daughter. She later becomes Madame Du Roy.
Norbert de Varenne is an old and world-weary man of letters who is a well-compensated writer at the newspaper.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 517
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 quickly discovers an ambitious young man to take Duroy’s place.
Clotilde de Marelle
Clotilde de Marelle (kloh-TEELD deh mah-REHL), Duroy’s mistress. She, like most women, immediately falls under his hypnotic spell. Even when he neglects her, she is unable to stay away from him. After Suzanne’s marriage to Duroy, Clotilde presses his hand warmly to indicate her continuing love for him.
Charles Forestier, Duroy’s former brother officer and the editor who befriends him. Blessed with an intelligent wife and doomed by weak lungs, Forestier helps Duroy get a job as a reporter for M. Walter’s newspaper. After the former’s death and before his body is cold, Duroy proposes marriage to the dead man’s wife.
M. Walter, the owner of the newspaper for which Duroy works. Using his powerful connections, this shrewd, avaricious man has become one of the wealthiest men in France, but he is unaware that he is a cuckold. When he learns of Duroy’s intentions to marry his daughter, he dissents violently. Later, he realizes that Duroy has enough information to ruin him, and he consents readily to the marriage.
Basile Walter (bay-ZEEL), M. Walter’s wife. Falling desperately in love with Duroy, she offers him anything in her power. All she desires is a little affection in return, even though she knows that he is increasingly bored with her. When she learns of Duroy’s plans to marry her daughter, she almost goes insane from jealousy. As the marriage approaches, she is still unable to reconcile herself to losing her lover.
Suzanne Walter, Basile Walter’s daughter. After Duroy wins his divorce from Madeleine, the naïve young girl is quite prepared to elope with him, even over the strenuous objections of her mother. She remains completely unaware of his numerous intrigues with other women.