Under Fire Characters
The narrator of Henri Barbusse's 1916 novel of World War I is not named. He writes about the squad of French foot soldiers who are his comrades-in-arms and is thought to be a version of Barbusse himself, who had served and was injured.
Corporal Betrand is the leader of the men. He is described as dignified and morally upright; prior to the war, he had worked as a foreman.
The soldiers all receive at least some character development; the point is that they come from all over the country and from all walks of life. Some are young, some are old, and there are some in middle age as well. They are defined through their physical characteristics, their level of education, and their pre-war professions. Paradis, who had worked as a carter before the war, is characterized by his innocent, youthful looks. Volpatte is square-jawed and will lose his ears when a shell hits.
Lamuse is described as being built strong and sturdily as a peasant. Cadilhac is also a peasant, but also a landowner. Barque comes from the working class; he had been a deliveryman in Paris. Biquet is from Breton and among the youngest of the survivors. Old Blaire is a toothless old man.
Fouillade is from Cette and was a boatman; he is 40, thus older than many of the others. Tirette is from Clichy-la-Garonne. Tirloir was a painter of carriages and is characterized by his discontentedness.
Mesnil Andre is a pharmacist from Normandy. His brother is Joseph Andre, who worked in a newsstand in a railway station.
Cocon worked in a hardware store; he is obsessive about numbers and counting things. Pépin is enigmatic about his past; he is mostly an unknown entity. Tulacque is a tall and thin former bartender.
Eudore was a tavern keeper described as soft and bland. Poterloo had been a miner in Calonne.
Farfadet is described as a delicate man. Aside from the men, there is Eudoxie, a fair-haired refugee in whom Lamuse becomes interested. She and Farfadet seem to have an attraction and understanding. She is later killed, and Lamuse comes upon her body in a trench.
Volpatte (vohl-PAT), a square-faced, jaundiced-looking, broken-nosed man who is hospitalized after almost losing his ears but returns bitter about the men in the hospital, both the malingering patients and the arrogant staff members.
Eudore (ew-DOHR), a pale, pleasant-faced former keeper of a roadside café. Ironically, the one night of furlough he spends with his wife is spoiled by the presence of four soldiers taken in because of a heavy rain. He is later killed on patrol.
Poterloo (poh-tehr-LEW ), a pink-faced, blond former miner who accompanies some friendly German privates to an Alsatian village to see his wife and is shocked to see her...
(The entire section is 671 words.)