Count Muffat is, at first, the representative of the highest level of society during the second empire. He is a chamberlain to the emperor and empress and is one of the most respected members of the aristocracy. He is also a pious man who has been a staunch supporter of the church. During his life, he has repressed every sexual emotion and has maintained a cold, pious attitude toward immorality.
When he first sees Nana, unknown desires are aroused in him. He gradually discovers a new self, one that cannot live within the restricted bounds of his religious values. When he becomes Nana's lover, he can at first retain part of his dignity even though he is going against his nature. But as his desire increases, he slowly becomes Nana's slave and will stoop to any indignity to satisfy her capricious whims. As he degrades himself to satisfy Nana, she becomes more and more disdainful of him. She forces him to become no more than an animal that has to suffer her abuses and punishment. Count Muffat stands as a symbol of how completely the righteous man can be corrupted by the eroticism of his age. In Muffat's collapse is inherent the collapse of an entire empire which puts its animal desires ahead of spiritual values. His willingness to sacrifice the most respected symbols of the empire represents the empire's desire to destroy itself and to enjoy its own baseness.