The American: Characters

Babcock is the Unitarian minister from Dorchester, Massachusetts, who travels with Newman through Europe for a while. He takes a scholarly approach to the European master works of art. He gets indigestion trying to analyze each work, while Newman is easy-going and not serious enough for Babcock, who finally parts with him in disgust.

Madame de Bellegarde, the younger
Madame de Bellegarde, the younger, is Urbains young wife. She is not given a first name. She is pretty, flirtatious, and has a young daughter. She pretends not to care about aristocratic life when she speaks with Newman the American, but she depends upon social recognition as much as the rest of the family. She thinks her husband is boring and would like to go slumming with Newman in the Latin Quarter.

Madame de Bellegarde, the dowager marquise
Madame de Bellegarde, the dowager marquise, is the villain of the novel. She was born Emmeline Atheling, the daughter of the Catholic Earl of St. Dunstan in England. She married the Marquis de Bellegarde and lived in Paris with him and their family of two sons and a daughter. She is cruel and autocratic, forcing others to obey her will. Everyone in the family is afraid of her. The skeleton in the closet is that she killed her husband over the decision of a husband for their daughter, Claire. Claire was close to her father, and he did not want her to marry the Count of Cintré, an old lecherous man. The marquiss wife withheld his medicine and badgered him to death so she could have her way. The children are afraid of her and do as she wishes. She agrees to the marriage of her daughter to Newman and then feels it is her right to withdraw her word. She shows Newman in any way she can that he does not belong in their world.

Urbain de Bellegarde
Urbain is the oldest son, fifty years old, and the current marquis. He is blonde and looks English and distinguished. He is his mothers creature and does her bidding. He has taken his fathers place as her consort. He is stiff and formal, attached to the ancient name he bears and the Bourbon monarchy, which has been overthrown. Yet he becomes a scholar and writes a book about the history of the Bourbon princesses. He is proud and learned, scornful of democracy and Newmans lower-class manners. He is boring but upright and will do anything to preserve his thousand-year-old name. He joins his mother in persecuting his sister, Claire.

Valentin de Bellegarde
Valentin de Bellegarde is Claires favorite brother. He is close to his sister. He becomes Newmans friend, though they come from different social classes and ways. Newman thinks of him as the romantic Frenchman, an officer who duels over questions of honor. He never marries but is a playboy in Paris with a witty tongue. He is sarcastic in front of Urbain, who thinks of him as a rebel. Newman likes Valentin because he is joyous and vivacious, a lover of life. He is generous and frank, the opposite of his brother, Urbain. Valentins name fits his love of the ladies. He dies fighting another lover of Noémies. He falls in love with her though he knows what kind of woman she is.

Mrs. Bread
Mrs. Bread is an English servant who came over to France with the old marquise on her marriage to the count. She has nursed all the children and the old marquis on his deathbed. She treats Claire and Valentin as her children. She hopes to escape the Bellegarde home when Claire marries Newman. She knows the secret of the Bellegarde family and tells it to Newman. The old marquise can oppose her accusations on the grounds that she had an affair with the marquis. Mrs. Bread denies this. Newman hires her to take care of his Paris apartments.

Madame de Cintré, Claire de Bellegarde
Claire de Bellegarde, the widow Madame de Cintré, is the beautiful, delicate, and refined daughter, who was sold in marriage at the age of eighteen to the Count of Cintré, an old man of sixty. When he died, her family fought his for his fortune. She withdrew her claim on finding out his shady past. Her mother and brother bully her to fall in line with the family wishes. She is shy, with suppressed gaiety that Newman brings out in her. She appears to be in love with Newman and wants to marry him, but when her mother opposes it and tries to push her into a marriage with Lord Deepmere, she becomes a nun. She is said to be saintly and good, spiritual in nature. Her beauty is compared to the Madonnas. She becomes Sister Veronica in the Carmelite convent, at the age of twenty-seven. Claire is blonde, tall, and slender. She is gentle and good with children. Newman wants her to be the mother of his children. Unlike her family, she is not pretentious, though she is proud. She is open and frank with Newman but she is afraid of her mother and the curse she says is on the family.

Lord Deepmere
Lord Deepmere is a long lost and distant English cousin summoned up by the marquise as a substitute husband for her daughter. He is thirty-three, bald, with no front teeth and pimples. He has a brutal nature, but he has large estates in England and Ireland. Rather than marry him, Claire goes into a convent. He becomes a lover of NoémieNioche.

StanislasKapp is the surly German lover of NoémieNioche whom Valentin challenges to a duel. Kapp is the son of a German brewer from Strasbourg, and he kills Valentin in the duel because he takes it seriously, not in the cavalier way the aristocrats do.

Christopher Newman
Christopher Newman is the protagonist of the story, an American businessman, thirty-six years old, who has come to Europe to see what it has to offer to complete his life. He has been a soldier in the American Civil War, then became a millionaire in trade. He is handsome, strong, uneducated but intelligent and practical. He is a kind man with an even nature. He is impressed with the culture of France and wants to possess it in the person of Claire de Bellegarde who will be his chief jewel. He is genuinely in love with Claire and wants to protect her, taking her away from her cruel family. He believes his money is as good as the Bellegarde name. He gains Claires confidence, and she agrees to marry him because he is different than the people around her. He promises to make her happy and give her freedom. She has never heard such ideas and surrenders. When Claire becomes a nun to run away from her family, Newman is heartbroken. He tries to take revenge on her family by keeping in his possession the letter that accuses Claires mother of murder. He realizes the futility of revenge and lets it go. Newman is shown as uncultured but good, morally above the Europeans he interacts with, except for Claire.

M. Nioche
Monsieur Nioche is the French father of Noémie. He accompanies her as she recruits lovers to support them. He pretends to be ashamed of her behavior but is part of her cover. He takes orders from her and is delighted to get an allowance. Newman at first believes his sad story when he says he was ruined in business and has to let his daughter support him. He gives Newman French lessons.

Mlle. NoémieNioche
Mademoiselle NoémieNioche is a beautiful young Parisian who appears to be an artist copying paintings in the Louvre to support her and her father.  She is actually an adventuress who wants to be a high-priced mistress known in the social world. She uses her father as cover but does as she pleases. She plans her own brilliant career in Paris, going from one prestigious lover to the next. Valentin admires her clever ways and falls in love with her though he admits she is heartless. She is happy about the duel fought over her, for though it kills Valentin, it will make her reputation in the social world.

Lizzy Tristram
Lizzy Tristram is an intelligent but plain-looking American woman who has lived on the continent most of her life. She speaks French and has many friends in Paris, including Claire de Bellegarde, whom she met in a convent school. She makes friends with Newman and tries to help him find a wife, introducing him to Claire. She herself is unhappily married to a stupid man. They have two children. Lizzy is changeable and ironic but a constant friend to Newman, helping him to interpret the French.

Tom Tristram
Tom Tristram is an overweight and dull American who lives in Paris with his family in the American section of Paris. He knows nothing of culture. He tries to lure Newman to the Occidental Club to play poker with other Americans. He had met Newman during the American Civil War and runs into him in the Louvre, inviting him home to meet his family.