Edouard (ay-DWAHR), a novelist who resembles André Gide. He is a close observer of and a commentator on the other characters and their actions, and he is a connecting link in their stories. He believes it is a person’s duty to be himself regardless of consequences, though the difference between the real and the counterfeit self may sometimes be hard to discern. His interest in Olivier is homosexual but on a higher level than Passavant’s.
Olivier Molinier (oh-lee-VYAY moh-lee-NYAY), his thoughtful, reserved nephew, jealous of Edouard’s interest in Bernard, which he thinks is erotic. He temporarily falls under Passavant’s malign influence but escapes. He attempts suicide but is revived by Edouard.
George Molinier, Olivier’s younger brother, a passer of counterfeit coins. The coins are symbolic of the false selves that people reveal in society. Boris’ shocking death has a sobering effect on him.
Vincent Molinier, Olivier’s tall, handsome older brother, a friend of Passavant; Laura’s lover and father of her child. He becomes insane after Lady Griffith’s death, which he may have brought about.
Bernard Profitendieu (proh-fee-tahn-DYEW), Olivier’s friend and Edouard’s bold, unscrupulous, impudent secretary and disciple; an illegitimate son.
Laura Douviers (doo-VYAY), Edouard’s friend and Vincent’s discarded pregnant mistress, whom he met while both were patients in a sanatorium.
Felix Douviers, Laura’s generous husband, willing to forgive her and accept the child as his own.
Comte Robert de Passavant
Comte Robert de Passavant (pah-sah-VAHN), a cynical libertine, homosexual, and dilettante writer. He symbolizes aristocratic decadence.
Armand Vedel (ahr-MAHN veh-DEHL), Laura’s younger brother and Olivier’s friend; he succeeds Olivier as editor of Passavant’s journal and apparently as sexual partner also.
Rachel, Laura’s older sister, manager of the Vedel School.
Sarah, Armand’s submissive sister in whom Bernard is briefly interested sexually.
Lady Lillian Griffith
Lady Lillian Griffith, a friend of Passavant. She and Vincent elope to Africa, where she is drowned.
Albéric Profitendieu (ahl-bay-REEK), Bernard’s foster father, a magistrate who is concerned about the counterfeiters’ operations. He is disliked by Bernard, who runs away after discovering his illegitimacy.
La Pérouse (pay-ROOZ), an old music teacher, a friend of Edouard.
Boris, his young grandson. In a school initiation into boys’ secret society, he shoots himself after a real pistol bullet has been substituted for a dummy.
The Vedels, Laura’s family, close friends of Edouard’s. They are symbols of bourgeois decadence.
Oscar Molinier, Edouard’s brother-in-law, a magistrate.
Pauline, his wife, Edouard’s unhappy half-sister.