The narrator, who presents the conversations that compose the book. No description of him is provided. He frequently interrupts his characters to interject comments about the relationship between fiction and reality. He emphasizes the “made-up” character of his work, often changing from one story to another before the first has been completed. He combines authentic references to contemporary events with unexplained and bizarre jumps in chronology. He sometimes mentions other novelists, including Miguel de Cervantes and Samuel Richardson.
Jacques, a valet. He is the hero of the book, and his adventures are its chief subject. His exact age is not given, but he often discusses his military service, which took place twenty years before his dialogues with the Master; therefore, he is probably in his forties. He walks with a limp because one of his knees was shattered while he was in the army. He is attractive to women, as his many adventures indicate. A nonstop talker, he is subject to frequent distractions in his storytelling. He often repeats fatalistic slogans but arrives at no fixed conclusion about the effect on one’s actions of accepting fatalism. Fatalism does, however, influence his attitude, which is one of resigned cheerfulness. His tales usually have as their theme the near escapes from disaster occasioned by his frequent romances.
The Master, the principal conversation partner of Jacques. He is not described physically, but, like Jacques, he has seen military service. He is probably somewhat older than his valet. His principal role is to prod Jacques to untangle his stories. Without much success, he endeavors to get Jacques to complete one story before beginning another. He is generally in a good mood but is occasionally grumpy. He is heavily dependent on Jacques.
The innkeeper’s wife
The innkeeper’s wife, the teller of one of the main stories in the book. She is no longer “in the first flush of youth” but is still attractive. She is tall and full-figured, with beautiful hands. Like Jacques, she is a nonstop talker. Beneath a sometimes gruff exterior, she is unusually kindhearted. Her story is about the complicated relations, mixing love and jealousy, between the Marquis des Arcis and Madame de la Pommeraye. She recounts her story with considerable polish. How someone in her circumstances has come to possess intimate knowledge of the nobility is not explained.