Frederic Moreau (fray-day-REEK moh-ROH), a young student who, in 1840, has graduated from the College of Sens and is returning by boat to Nogent, along the Seine. In the fall, he will begin his law courses, but now he is more interested in studying human nature. After a talk with M. Arnoux, he goes to the upper deck, where he is attracted by the sight of lovely Mme Arnoux. Not until he retrieves her ball of yarn does he learn that she is married and has a small daughter. Later, in Paris, he is so infatuated with her that he fails in his final law examinations. He decides to give up thoughts of her and go into politics under the sponsorship of M. Dambreuse. He plans with Deslauriers to found a paper with wealth inherited from his uncle; instead, he gives the money to M. Arnoux. When Mme Arnoux fails to appear for a rendezvous, he seeks out Rosanette, her husband’s mistress, to get revenge. He and Rosanette live together in the country for a time. Frederic is never able to find a really permanent love.
M. Jacques Arnoux
M. Jacques Arnoux (zhahk ahr-NEW), a sophisticated businessman who meets Frederic on a boat trip and invites him to call when in Paris. Primarily because Frederic is greatly attracted to Mme Arnoux, the older man becomes well acquainted with him. In an effort to save the failing Arnoux business enterprises, he eventually borrows a large sum of money from Frederic, which is never repaid. He goes bankrupt and begins to neglect his wife for his mistresses, but because of her innate honesty, she remains faithful.
Mme Marthe Arnoux
Mme Marthe Arnoux (mahrt), his wife, an honest woman who likes Frederic but remains faithful to her fickle and unsuccessful...
(The entire section is 755 words.)