- The novella's protagonist. Frankie Addams is a precocious and gregarious twelve year-old girl in the throes of adolescence. She is in a state of limbo between the innocent, sheltered days of her childhood, and the more worldliness of young adulthood. As a result of this rift, she is disconnected from everyone around her and spends the novella searching for a way to meld with other people. She has lofty fantasies about how she will escape what she feels is a stifling existence. And she is stubborn and contentious with anyone who might stand in her way. However, her naïveté and lack of awareness of the adult world, particularly when it comes to matters of sex and interpersonal relationships, hold her back from achieving her fantastical plans. In each of the three parts of the novella, she goes by three different names: first Frankie, then F. Jasmine, and then Frances.
in-depth analysis of Frankie Addams.
Berenice Sadie Brown
- The Addams family's African-American housekeeper. Though she is over forty years old, she is still an avidly sexual woman who is never shy about having a good time with the various men who come through her life. In fact, by the end of the novella, she considers marrying her fifth husband. She is a no-nonsense type who doesn't put up with Frankie's difficult and moody behavior. She acts as a voice of reason, giving readers some better perceptive on the reality that Frankie easily overlooks.
in-depth analysis of Berenice Sadie Brown.
John Henry West
- The six year-old first cousin of Frankie who spends much his time hanging around the Addams house. Intelligent beyond his years and highly circumspect, he is quick with an insightful comment. He acts as a foil for Frankie, representing the childhood she wants so badly to leave behind. Also, his calm demeanor contrasts her often hysterical behavior. John Henry's sudden death from meningitis at the end of the novel represents the death of Frankie's childhood, as if he only ever existed as a metaphor.
in-depth analysis of John Henry West.
Royal Quincy Addams
- Frankie's quiet and serious widower. Mr. Addams' wife, Frankie's mother, died when Frankie was born. His function in the novel is minimal, as he spends most of the novel out of frame, working in his jewelry shop. When we do hear from him, it is as a stern adult voice, one that keeps the cantankerous Frankie in line.
- The Soldier, who is never given a name, is in town on leave for three days. He is a sullen, quiet type who seems to have one thing on his mind: sex. He represents the harshness of the adult world, opening Frankie's eyes, both in to the dangers of war and of sexuality.
- Frankie's older brother who gets married to Janice Evans. A completely absent figure from the immediate action, he becomes the source of all Frankie's desires and fantasies. She spent two years dreaming about him while he was stationed in Alaska, and now all she can think about is somehow joining in on his marriage. However hard Frankie tries to convince herself that she is an adult, Jarvis still sees her as a little kid.
- Jarvis's fiancée from Winter Hill. We are given only the smallest glimpse of her, and then only in flashbacks. Like Jarvis, she represents Frankie's great wish to become and adult and connect with other people.
- In the summer previous to the novella's action, Frankie and Barney "committed a queer sin" in Barney's garage. We can safely assume they were kissing, though McCullers is vague. Frankie's reaction to the experience with Barney tells us how she is both ignorant and afraid of matters regarding sex.
- John Henry's great-uncle, who is not related to Frankie by blood. After a long illness, he dies on Saturday. This is much to the irritation of Frankie, who feels the glum nature of death distracts from the excitement about the wedding.
- Frankie's only friend until she moved away to Florida, leaving Frankie alone.
- Berenice's foster brother. Honey seems to have a few screws loose. He is unable to go to war, so he lives with Big Mama. He is a lighted skinned African- American and represents someone who might be able to change their racial identity in the same way that Frankie might otherwise change herself from an androgynous child to a feminine adult.
- Berenice's latest beau, who is well off and works in a restaurant. He and Berenice eventually agree to marry.
- Berenice's first husband, who died in 1931, at the same time when Frankie was born.
- Berenice's mother. Big Mama is something of a shoddy fortune teller. She tells Frankie her fortune, and does not give Frankie the rosy future Frankie had hoped. However, she turns out to be correct, putting Frankie into her place yet again.
Mr. and Mrs. Marlowe
- Former boarders in the Addams household. Frankie once caught them doing what we can assume was having sex. This scenario shows us how completely ignorant Frankie is about matters of sex.
- Becomes a new friend to Frankie shortly after the main events of the novella. Two years older than Frankie, she is mature enough to satisfy Frankie's desire to grow up, but close enough to Frankie's age that the two of them can realistically connect emotionally.
Aunt Pet and Uncle Ustace
- At the end of the novella, Frankie and her father get ready to move into a suburb house with Aunt Pet and Uncle Ustace.