Angélo Pardi (pahr-DEE), a twenty-five-year-old hussar colonel making his way home from France to Piedmont, where he had been involved in the Risorgimento (Italian revolution) and from which he had fled after killing an Austrian spy in a duel. As the horseman of the title, Angélo has a “rooftop” view of life, suggested by his flight across the rooftops of Manosque (the author’s native village) from angry and panicked villagers who think he has poisoned the town well. As he travels down the cholera-ridden Rhone Valley, he has the habit of questioning his own actions and motivations in the middle of the epidemic. This habit, his fearlessness, and his tendency to describe the epidemic in military terms are complemented by his complete sincerity, selflessness, and idealism. He has an innate sense of justice and believes in the primacy of individual conscience. After descending from the rooftops of Manosque, Angélo continues his journey, successfully meeting challenge after challenge in this heroic tale of self-discovery, which pits him against angry mobs, French militia, a variety of strange individuals, and, ultimately, nature, embodied mainly by the cholera epidemic.
Pauline de Théus
Pauline de Théus (tay-YEWS), the young wife of the elderly Marquis de Théus, who does not appear in the novel. She is the perfect complement to Angélo. It is she who helps him escape from Manosque. Described only as having a face like a fer-de-lance (a venomous tropical American snake or a spearhead), she is his equal in their shared journey, whether scaling walls, handling heavy military pistols, crawling on all fours, or examining her conscience. Like Angélo, she feels compelled to involve herself in the challenges of...
(The entire section is 750 words.)