Mariagrazia Ardengo (mah-ree-ah-GRAH-see-ah ahr-DEHN-goh), a silly, neurotic, middle-aged widow. Mariagrazia’s main motivation is to keep her love affair with Leo from expiring. Her jealous scenes, however, drive Leo away, and he begins to focus his interest on Mariagrazia’s daughter, Carla. Ultimately, Mariagrazia is willing to share Leo with Carla as long as he does not abandon her altogether.
Leo Merumeci (LEE-oh mehr-EW-meh-see), Mariagrazia’s forty-two-year-old lover. Leo is a rough and unscrupulous businessman who is trying to appropriate Mariagrazia’s money. His interest in having Carla, even if it means he has to marry her, does not preclude his keeping Mariagrazia as a lover.
Carla Ardengo, Mariagrazia’s twenty-four-year-old daughter. Passive and indifferent, Carla is a true victim of the situation who, at times, longs to escape her dreary existence. She witnesses without any sign of rebellion the various events that are used to manipulate her. Carla marries Leo not out of love but out of a desire for change in her life.
Michele Ardengo, Mariagrazia’s son, a first-year law student. He has visions of liberation from his indifferent existence, but they are doomed by that very indifference. When he realizes that Leo has seduced Carla, Michele believes that he must do something but cannot find any real emotion for the task. As a result, Michele decides to shoot Leo, but his attempt fails miserably because he forgets to load the gun. From the failure of his action, however, Michele acquires an understanding of the value of love and honesty and the importance of family and society. This new awareness does not help him break out of his passive life. He agrees to see Lisa and start an affair with her, but he does so with no real enthusiasm.
Lisa, Leo’s lover before he met Mariagrazia. After losing Leo first to Mariagrazia and then to Carla, Lisa switches her attentions to Michele, whom she seeks to seduce. Lisa also desires change (as does Carla) and passion (as does Michele) in her life. Michele, with his lack of spontaneous emotion, probably will not provide either.