Hermann, a Russian officer of German descent. A prudent, cautious man, Hermann lives frugally and modestly on his salary as an engineer. Although passionate by nature and a gambler at heart, Hermann controls his emotions. He never plays cards himself for fear of risking the essentials in life, yet he follows the card games of his friends with feverish excitement. When he learns that the Countess, Anna Fedotovna, possesses the secret of playing three winning cards in succession, his imagination is inflamed, and he coldly calculates a plan to obtain the secret by courting the Countess’ ward, Elizaveta Ivanovna, thereby gaining access into the Countess’ house. Exasperated when the Countess fails to reveal the secret, he threatens her, and she dies of fright. Superstitious and fearful that the Countess may take revenge on him, he attends her funeral to ask her pardon and imagines that she winks at him when he bends over her coffin. Stunned and frightened, he leaves and drinks heavily. Later that night, the ghost of the Countess appears and reveals to him the card secret. Obsessed with the thought of using the secret to win a fortune, he is taken by Narumov to Chekalinsky’s gambling parlor, bets his entire patrimonial inheritance, and loses. Shocked, he imagines that the losing queen of spades playing card winks at him; he goes insane and is committed to an asylum.
The Countess, Anna Fedotovna (feh-DOH-tov-nah), a capricious, moody dowager, eighty-seven years old, who tyrannizes her domestic servants. A renowned beauty and vivacious socialite in her youth, she had lost a...
(The entire section is 696 words.)