Incident at Vichy | Study Guide

Arthur Miller

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Incident at Vichy | Character Analysis


Von Berg

Von Berg is a cultured Austrian prince. He claims his family name is 1,000 years old. He considers the Nazis working class, vulgar, and brutish. He cannot understand how the Nazis can appreciate art and culture yet be so cruel to the Jews. Von Berg engages in debates about this topic with the other men as he sincerely tries to understand the evil being perpetrated by the Nazis. His presence among the other detainees gives them hope because Von Berg is not Jewish. The other detainees consequently believe they might not have been called in for being Jewish. Von Berg makes the ultimate sacrifice when he gives his life for Leduc.


Leduc is a doctor who was in the same battle during the war as the Major. He tries to connect with the Major using this fact. Leduc believes Bayard's observation about the railroad cars locked from the outside and filled with people. Leduc tries to understand the situation they are in by analyzing human nature rather than analyzing politics. He consequently mentions the power of the unconscious mind in making decisions. Leduc wants to overpower the guard to escape, but none of the other detainees will help him. Leduc does not believe the Jews are a separate race or that all governments have racially inspired laws. When Von Berg gives his freedom pass to Leduc, this act realizes Leduc's wish for Von Berg to take responsibility rather than express guilt.


Lebeau is taken off the street and brought into the detention center. He is a fine art painter but is not particularly cultured. The professor measured his nose and other facial features before bringing him in, and Lebeau frequently mentions this fact to the other detainees. He suspects his measurements were taken to determine whether he is Jewish. Lebeau's intense fear leads him to be aggressive. He does not have an educated worldview. He sees everything from a very personal viewpoint, as if he has blinders on. He does not develop a broader worldview in the course of the play.


Bayard tries to calm Lebeau who sits next to him on the bench. Bayard suspects he and the other detainees are not there for a simple document check. He frequently expresses his socialist opinions. He says that monopolies have gained control of Germany and that big business will make slaves of them all. Bayard reveals to the rest of the detainees his frightening observation. He works in the rail yard and saw train cars locked from the outside. Moreover, he heard the sounds of many people inside. He believes they are being taken to concentration camps in Poland. Bayard and Von Berg debate the topic of the working class saving the world. Von Berg cannot convince Bayard that the working class will not secure the world's future. Bayard's opinions do not change.


Monceau believes that his acting skills will convince the authorities to release him. He does not want to believe that trains are taking Jews to concentration camps. Monceau wants to maintain that people are volunteering to work in Germany. He says he has letters from his cousin in Auschwitz telling him he is fine. He defends the Germans as being great appreciators of music. Monceau tries to convince Bayard that all he has to do is act confident and the authorities will release him. Monceau cannot believe the Jews are being burned in furnaces. Monceau is called into the authorities' office and does not come out.

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