The Roque family has no shortage of dough. Monsieur lives in Nogent-sur-Seine, but he's well-connected in Paris and works for Monsieur Dambreuse.
Back in the day, Monsieur Roque caused a bit of a scandal by shacking up with his housekeeper, which resulted in Louise:
Madame Moreau, indeed, was not on visiting terms with him. Père Roque lived in peculiar relations with his servant-girl, and was held in very slight esteem, although he was the vice-president at elections, and M. Dambreuse's manager. (1.2.39)
In case that wasn't enough to show his less-than-moralness, he also screws over Madame Moreau when he loans her a chunk of change to Madame Moreau and then turns around and demands immediate repayment.
When we first meet Louise, she's just a freckly-faced young girl. Her main problem? She's kind of lonely in the countryside, no thanks to the fact that she's an illegitimate child so the other kids aren't allowed to play with her. Here's how we see her in the first chapter:
She passed her life nearly always by herself in the garden, went see-sawing on the swing, chased butterflies, then suddenly stopped to watch the floral beetles swooping down on the rose-trees. It was, no doubt, these habits which imparted to her face an expression at the same time of audacity and dreaminess. (1.6.26)
As she grows up, little Louise falls in love with Frederick and even asks him to marry her. (Just forget about the age difference for a second.) After all, he's her chance to get out of the provincial town of Nogent. Frederick likes the idea of marrying into wealth, but she just doesn't do it for him. And after waiting way too long for Frederick to get his act together, she marries his best friend, Deslauriers, and then runs off with a singer.
Once again, not the fairy tale ending you might hope for.
A nobleman and a law student, this guy enjoys a considerable fortune inherited from his grandmother. In case you weren't sure he was pretentious, de Cist loves referring to himself as "having the proper stamp." So classy.
De Cisy's big mouth rears its head on two notable occasions:
(1) He humiliates Frederick one night by taking Rosanette home from the Café Anglia just as Frederick was trying to woo her. Not cool.
(2) At a dinner hosted by the Dambreuses, he has some harsh words to say about Rosanette and Madame Arnoux and—after Frederick hurls a plate in his face (NBD)—he ends up challenging Frederick to a duel. Facing Frederick's pistol at the duel, he faints from fear and ends up looking like a fool.
Proper stamp, indeed.
Dussardier is one of the few lower-class characters in the novel, and sure enough, he's often mistreated by his bourgeois friends.
Frederick meets this shop worker and deliveryman early on in the novel, just as the rebellion is beginning. He's a major Republican, yearning for the day when all people join in brotherly equality. But right of the bat, he jumps a policeman during a demonstration and gets packed off to jail.
As he lies on his bed with battle wounds toward the end of the novel, Dussardier begins to regret some of his actions. But life will take care of that, because he is eventually shot to death by a policeman for Louis Napoleon's Second Empire—a policeman who happens to be his friend and mentor, Sénécal.
The harsh reality of revolution has never been, well, harsher.
Frederick sees this guy as just a crummy journalist, always trying to argue the opposing side of any argument. But that doesn't mean Frederick won't milk his connection to him; Hussonet is part of Arnoux's Art Industriel circle, and so he becomes a way for Frederick to work his way into Madame Arnoux's life.
Also known as "The Citizen," Regimbart is another one of Arnoux's groupies. A committed Republican, he's big on giving his opinions—but isn't inclined to working very much. Oh, and he's come up with some crazy system that involves running around to various cafes and restaurants all day so he can be there at the same time each day. Yep, that's all he does.
Unlike your typical suffering artist figure, Pellerin, a painter, basically lives a life of privilege. He hangs around the Arnoux home and shop, and spends a lot of time trying to understand the meaning of beauty. The guy has big hopes for himself—he wants the governments to recognize and subsidize him as a great artist—but to be honest, he's a completely mediocre painter.
His worst offenses? One painting of Rosanette, another of Rosanette and Frederick's dead baby, and another depicting the Republic as a locomotive driving a train though a beautiful forest. Don't worry, he switches to photography in the end.
Frederick's overly ambitious mother is always on his case about being a professional success and marrying well. (Ah, some things never change). She is all about bourgeois conventions, a strictly middle class figure who believes in doing things the right and proper way.
Madame Moreau is well-respected and has a good pedigree, just not a lot of cash:
She came of an old family of nobles, of which the male line was now extinct. Her husband, a plebeian whom her parents forced her to marry, met his death by a sword-thrust, during her pregnancy, leaving her an estate much encumbered. She received visitors three times a week, and from time to time, gave a fashionable dinner. But the number of wax candles was calculated beforehand, and she looked forward with some impatience to the payment of her rents. These pecuniary embarrassments, concealed as if there were some guilt attached to them, imparted a certain gravity to her character. (1.1.76)
Needless to say, Mom is more than eager for Frederick to inherit his uncle's bankroll.
As you might have guessed, this lady isn't the most sympathetic character. After all, she seems to be only concerned with how her son can improve their status socially and economically. Do you think Frederick might have moved to Paris to get the heck away from her? It wouldn't be the first time a son's make that move.
Mademoiselle Vatnaz and Rosanette compete for the affections of Delmar, a crummy actor. She eventually tries to ruin Rosanette, though we're not exactly sure why.
During the revolution, Mademoiselle Vatnaz becomes an enthusiastic propagandist in the hopes that she can revenge herself on the upper classes, who have always excluded her. She gets really into championing woman's rights and believes that people will only be free once women are free, too. Don't be fooled: them's fightin' words at the time.
Baptiste Martinon is another law student and an acquaintance of Frederick. He's Madame Dambreuse's lover, but—surprise!—that doesn't stop him from marrying Cécile, the illegitimate daughter of Monsieur Dambreuse. Why? Because he hopes to get a large inheritance—which he ultimately does.
This cheesy actor and singer who somehow manages to get the ladies—both Rosanette and Mademoiselle Vatnaz take him as a lover. During the revolution, he becomes a politician committed to socialist propaganda.
This wealthy friend of Arnoux ends up marrying Rosanette.
The housekeeper for and lover of Monsieur Roque (scandal!), Catherine replaces Louise's biological mother, Eleanore, when she dies.
Madame Éléonore is Louise Roque's biological mother, but Roque just doesn't love her.
Fredrick has Uncle B to thank for being a high roller, as he leaves his fortune to the boy when he dies.
The daughter of Monsieur and Madame Roque, Marthe is a pesky kid who is later sent off to boarding school because she's too much trouble.
Plot mover! This is the Arnouxes' son, who gets super sick just as Madame Arnoux was supposed to have her romantic liaison with Frederick.
Cécile is referred to as Monsieur Dambreuse's "niece," but we find out later that she's actually his daughter (!). She's mostly a background character, but she shows her face at all the parties. She is supposed to marry Cisy, but ends up marrying Martinon and inheriting all of Monsieur Dambreuse's fortune—even though she doesn't bother to show up at his deathbed.
Deslauriers's mistress, who doesn't get treated very well, to put it lightly.