Germinie Lacerteux (zhehr-mee-NEE lah-sehr-TEW), an orphan reared by her sisters. Set to work as a waitress at the age of fourteen, she is soon seduced and bears a stillborn child. After a series of jobs she becomes the maid of Mlle de Varandeuil. Because she is naïve, people take advantage of her, even members of her family. She has a desperate need for love, physically and psychologically, which proves her undoing many times. She becomes an alcoholic. She dies of pleurisy after standing hours in the rain in hopes of seeing Jupillon, her former lover.
Mlle de Varandeuil
Mlle de Varandeuil (vah-rahn-DEW-yeh), an old maid with few friends or acquaintances and little money. She becomes Germinie’s employer. She does not see Germinie’s weaknesses, even her drunkenness, for she is too old to want to hire a new servant. She learns of the frustrations in Germinie’s life only after her death.
M. Jupillon (zhew-pee-YOHN), loved by Germinie, though he is ten years her junior. He takes advantage of her and becomes her lover. They have a son who lives only a few months. Though he leaves Germinie for another woman, he still takes her hard-earned money to buy his way out of military service.
Mme Jupillon, M. Jupillon’s mother. She owns a dairy store near where Germinie is employed by Mlle de Varandeuil. She takes advantage of Germinie’s willingness to help in the store.
M. Gautruche (goh-TREWSH), another of Germinie’s lovers. She wants him only as an object for her affections. To his surprise, she refuses to marry him when he proposes, and they part forever.