Albert Albinus, an independently wealthy German art collector and art critic. This shy, scholarly, middle-aged family man lives a staid upper-middle-class existence but has always longed for a passionate love affair. He foolishly falls in love with a trollop half his age whose treachery causes him to lose his wife, his daughter, his eyesight, much money, and finally his life. He is a well-meaning, good-natured victim of his repressed libido. Most of the story is told through his point of view.
Margot Peters, an usherette who becomes Albinus’ mistress. Although only eighteen years old and looking more like sixteen, she has grown up in a tough environment and has had considerable worldly experience. She has been a prostitute and a kept woman. She is beautiful and bursting with sex appeal, however, which is why she captivates Albinus. She has no affection for him but tries to get him to divorce his wife and marry her. Her fierce motivation to escape from her sordid lower-class background, to live in luxury, and to have a film career provides the main impetus for the action in the novel. She is the personification of the adage that beauty is only skin deep.
Axel Rex, a talented but improvident painter and cartoonist. He is about the same age as Albinus and shares his artistic tastes; otherwise, his character is diametrically opposite. He is ruthless...
(The entire section is 525 words.)