Christian Wahnschaffe (VAHN-shahf-feh), the son of a rich German capitalist, a young man of great physical courage. He lives and travels in the best European society. Through his association with a refugee Russian revolutionary, Christian becomes convinced of the futility of his idle life. Despite family opposition, he gives up his inheritance to become a poor man, going about helping the unfortunates of the world.
Bernard Crammon, Christian’s aristocratic friend and traveling companion in his luxurious and leisurely life.
Eva Sorel (AY-vah soh-REHL), a dancer of whom Christian becomes enamored. She finally gives herself to him, but by this time his growing idealism has dulled his sensual interests, and the affair does not last long.
Ivan Becker (EE-vahn), a Russian revolutionary. He introduces Christian to the problems of poverty.
Amadeus Voss (ah-mah-DAY-ews fos), a young man who once studied for the priesthood. He adds to Christian’s conviction that his life is futile. Voss expects to gain wealth from the association, and he proves disloyal when Christian actually goes about giving his fortune back to the family.
Karen Engelschall (EHN-gehl-shahl), a prostitute whom the liberalized Christian befriends. She also expects to profit handsomely from the association, and she thinks Christian mad when he gives up his wealth.
Denis Lay, an English nobleman and Christian’s rival for Eva’s affections. Lay dares Christian to compete in a swimming contest with him. He drowns despite Christian’s efforts to save him.
The Grand Duke Cyril
The Grand Duke Cyril, of St. Petersburg, who wishes to lay everything he can command at Eva’s feet. She refuses him and returns to Western Europe to become Christian’s mistress.