Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 467
Corporal Jean Macquart
Corporal Jean Macquart (zhahn mah-KAHR), a French peasant serving in the army during the Franco-Prussian War. He is a veteran of many battles who manages to survive honorably during the devastating fighting at Sedan. Captured by the Germans, he escapes with one of his men and bravely makes his way back to join the French Army of the North. In the civil war that breaks out against the Second Republic, he bayonets one of his friends fighting for the other side and is heartbroken.
Private Maurice Levasseur
Private Maurice Levasseur (moh-REES leh-vah-SEWR), a middle-class Frenchman who joins the French army to escape debts and is assigned to Corporal Macquart’s squad. Levasseur, who believes in the evolutionary necessity of war, at first despises the corporal but comes to admire Macquart for his bravery and common sense. In the fighting at Sedan, Levasseur saves the corporal’s life; later, the corporal helps him to escape the Germans after capture. In the civil war against the Second Republic, Levasseur is killed in night street fighting by his friend Macquart.
Honoré Fouchard (oh-noh-RAY few-SHAHR), a French artilleryman who is helped by Macquart and Levasseur in saving his father from pillaging German soldiers. He is a gallant man who offers to marry his father’s servant-girl, who is pregnant by a man suspected of being a German spy. Honoré is killed during the fighting around Sedan.
M. Fouchard, Honoré’s father, a farmer. He works with the French partisans against the Germans.
Silvine (seel-VEEN), M. Fouchard’s servant-girl, pregnant by one of the hired men. She finds the body of Honoré, who has offered to marry her, on the battlefield and brings it home for burial.
Goliath, M. Fouchard’s servant, who seduces Silvine. Goliath becomes a spy for the Germans. When he returns to the farm to renew his affair with Silvine, he is killed by French partisans.
Henriette Weiss, Maurice Levasseur’s twin sister. Her husband’s death at the hands of German soldiers almost unhinges her mind. She finds her brother in Paris dying of a wound inflicted by Corporal Macquart.
M. Weiss, Henriette’s husband, who organizes a band of soldiers and other civilians to fight the Germans. When captured, he is stood against a wall and executed, despite the entreaties of his wife, who sees him shot in cold blood.
M. Delaherche (deh-lah-EHRSH), M. Weiss’s employer, a textile manufacturer who finds collaboration with the Germans enables him to reestablish his business.
Captain von Gartlauben
Captain von Gartlauben, a Prussian officer billeted in M. Delaherche’s home. He helps his host collaborate with the conquerors.
Gunther, Maurice Levasseur’s cousin, an officer commanding a company of Prussian Guards.