The man who cuckolds Herzog is a radio announcer whose egotistical personality enables him to endure the fact that he has only one leg. Valentine has the physical, sexual stamina that Herzog lacks, and he has the ability to seem sincere in any pose he assumes. Under the guise of friendship, he slowly gained control over Herzog's destiny. For several years, Madeleine and Gersbach, in effect, ruled the protagonist's life for him.
Madeleine is attracted to Gersbach because he has the active qualities she admires and which the passive Herzog lacks. Perhaps because of her Bohemian upbringing, she is attracted to Valentine's theatrical emotionalism. Like Madeleine, Gersbach asserts his personality as a superior individual; he luxuriates in his feelings. Herzog perceives Gersbach's hypocritical pseudo-intellectualism, his fraudulence as a friend, and his deception as a husband to Phoebe Gersbach. He is a kind of parody of the Nietzschean superman figure, whose Dionysian sensuality enables him to combat the nihilistic fears of existence without purpose and value. He may also be viewed as a parody of the theme of the heart. If Herzog (herz means "heart" in German) represents genuine emotions, then Valentine (Valentine can mean a showy, heart-shaped ornament) represents showy, one-dimensional emotions.