The Gentleman, an aging civil servant living on a pension. Having lost his wife and daughter, he seeks only peace and order in his old age and resists intrusions in his life. He is so inflexible and set in his ways that his desire for peace can be taken as a rationalization based more on a fear of change than on principle. When his young wife and daughter reappear, he remains aloof, even to the point of assuming no responsibility for his child, whom he claims to love. He stresses that he urged his wife to leave him, although the matter remains unclear. He is cynical, somewhat misanthropic, and intolerant.
Karl Fredrik, the Gentleman’s brother, a lawyer. He criticizes his brother’s isolation and helps Gerda, his brother’s former wife, in her flight from her new husband, Fischer. He also defended Gerda during her divorce from the Gentleman. That remains a sore spot in the brothers’ relationship. He is a more reasonable and less soured man than his brother.
Gerda, the Gentleman’s former wife, his junior by many years. She is emotionally unstable and suffers from her inability to judge men. She marries the sinister Fischer a few years after divorcing the Gentleman but finally leaves him as well because of his lowly lifestyle.
Louise, the Gentleman’s young domestic. Her relationship with the Gentleman verges on romance, although it is carefully controlled by the latter to preclude that possibility. She is loyal and devoted to the Gentleman and spends much of her time playing chess with him.
Fischer, a sinister character, Gerda’s new husband. He runs a shady gambling joint in the apartment building where he, Gerda, and the Gentleman live. When Gerda decides to leave the him, he abducts her child, Anne-Charlotte, and runs off with a young woman, Agnes, the confectioner’s daughter.
Agnes Starck, the confectioner’s daughter, an innocent young woman yearning for romance who runs off with Fischer. She soon returns home.
Starck, a confectioner who lives next door to the Gentleman. He is resigned to his life and content in his resignation. He lives for simple pleasures and has few grand illusions.