The protagonist of the story who is sexually dissatisfied with her marriage but has given up any attempt to change the situation. The wife is indifferent to the fact that her husband may be having affairs with other women. She wishes she had a house with a garden, but they live in the city because of her husband’s job.
A man who cares only for his own sexual fulfillment. The husband gives no consideration to his wife’s desires and flippantly refers to relationships he’s had with other women.
An older women who is going blind. Bahiyya tends to ramble, and she proposes that her eyes are going blind from all the tears she’s cried. She laments being born a woman in her society, in which others have control over her life.
The narrator, who has just lost her husband. The widow hopes for a sign from beyond the grave and places all of her faith in the idea that a late-night phone call is her dead husband communicating with her.
A fifty-year-old woman who wishes she could talk to someone about her failing marriage. The wife was close to her sister, who recently died. She has always been somewhat afraid to open up to her own mother, but she blames her mother’s closed-in personality.
A well-groomed Turkish woman living in an expensively decorated apartment with a servant. The mother was truly in love with her husband, who died twenty-four years ago, and, despite her reserved nature, she makes an attempt to connect with her daughter.
The mother of the Ghobashi family. Zeinat is strong and practical, in charge of the household since her husband left to work in Libya. She is not afraid to lie in order to protect her child, Ni’ma, and to save the honor of the family.
The oldest daughter of the Ghobashi family. Ni’ma has gotten illegitimately pregnant. Instead of facing her predicament, Ni’ma suggests she commit suicide.
The father and head of the household. Ghobashi does his best to care for his family.
A naïve, romantic young woman who marries Omar, a good-for-nothing womanizer. Badriyya is so adamant about holding on to her fantasies about Omar saving her from the boring routine of her life that she refuses to acknowledge his behavior.
Badriyya’s husband, who was just released from prison for stealing tires. Omar talks of grand plans for his life but spends all of his time drinking, doing drugs, and sleeping with other women.
A woman who lives with Badriyya and Omar. Badriyya’s mother initially disapproves of Omar, but after he gives her some attention, she changes her opinion of him.
A man who lives in a nearby town and tries to convince Badriyya not to marry Omar. Badriyya’s uncle recognizes Omar’s character flaws but ultimately allows Badriyya to make her own decisions.
The innocent narrator of the story who is abused by her sister Dalal. The narrator’s only friend is her older sister, Nagwa. She is too young to understand adult behavior and provides innocent description and perspective. She desires approval from both Dalal and their father.
The narrator’s older sister, who lies to their mother in order to meet with her boyfriend, Mahmoud. Dalal brings the narrator along so as to not arouse suspicion. She wants to marry Mahmoud, but her father is arranging a marriage for her with someone else.
Dalal’s boyfriend. Mahmoud buys the narrator chocolates, but his character is questionable since he fondles her in Dalal’s absence. He likes Dalal but is not interested in marriage.
A woman of great beauty and mysterious powers. Mansoura loves Sayyid and seems righteous and honorable. It is unclear whether she willingly cheats on Sayyid or is raped by Hindawi. She tragically drowns but avenges her death from beyond the grave.
Mansoura’s husband, who goes to work for Sayyid. Sayyid is strong and good-hearted but naïve, unable to realize that the folk songs he sings are about his unfaithful wife.
The antagonist who employs Sayyid so that he can sneak off to seduce Mansoura while Sayyid works. Hindawi is cowardly, dishonorable, and obsessed with Mansoura. He flees after Mansoura’s death so that Sayyid will not find and kill him.
An older man who oversees the crew of men laying sewage pipe in the Mansoura canal. Sheikh Zeidan narrates the legendary tale of Mansoura to explain why the men chant her name as they lay pipe.
The protagonist whose husband cheats on her with the servant girls. Zennouba is devastated to hear that her venerable father also cheated on his wife. She was initially angry at her husband’s behavior but is now indifferent and frustrated because they have to continually find new servants.
Zennouba’s husband, who sleeps with the servant girls. Hagg is rough and uncaring.
The new servant girl in the house. Nargis is submissive and obedient.
A wise, strong woman who is seduced by a snake who is a monarch of the spirit world. The wife yearns for the snake and develops an unhealthy obsession, during which she becomes lazy and indifferent. However, she does act graciously toward Aneesa, the vagrant woman who claims the house as her own, and she is independent enough to travel alone and choose a house for the family.
A powerful spirit who has taken the form of a snake. The snake is wise and benevolent; she loves the narrator and bestows the gifts of youth, vitality, and sexual satisfaction upon her.
The mad woman with a child who tries to stop the narrator from inhabiting the house. Aneesa eventually recovers her mental facilities after the authorities take her away.
A government worker whose transfer brings the family to the town where the spirit-inhabited house is. The husband unknowingly breaks the pact with the spirit world by killing a snake.
The protagonist, who has traveled home for the burial of his father. Hassan has neglected his emotions for most of his life, preferring to live by reason and rational conventions. His inaction led to poor relations with his father, his wife, and his daughter. At his father’s funeral, he feels sadness and regret.
The protagonist’s father, who has just died. Hagg Aballah was proud of his young son and hoped to one day go on a pilgrimage with him. The villagers knew him as a great horseman and said he could tell who was approaching and when by putting his ear to the ground and listening.
An old spinster who lives with her nephew and their servant. Aziza is a somewhat hostile woman who spends her time criticizing the servant and yelling at children. She leaves the house only to attend funerals, where she leads the women in mourning. She is fond of her nephew and takes pleasure in thinking of the large inheritance she will leave him.
A bachelor and teacher who lives with his aunt, Aziza. Mahmoud secretly sleeps with the servant, Waheeba, and wishes to meet a woman to marry. Though he is agreeable with Aziza, he wishes he had more control, for he has to hide his smoking from her and submit to her opinions.
A servant for Mahmoud and Aziza. Waheeba is a divorcee and secretly sleeps with Mahmoud. She enjoys her time out of the house, when she meets with friends and tells stories about the household, usually altering the stories to make herself appear to have the upper hand.
A small child who lives on a farm and receives two rabbits from her grandmother. The narrator becomes very attached to the animals. She feels guilty and responsible when Nanny Zareefa kills one of the baby rabbits, and she gains a realization that death comes in varying degrees of significance.
A servant who kills one of the baby rabbits. Nanny Zareefa doesn’t realize that the narrator sees the killing.
A widow who lives alone and cares for chickens. Widad doesn’t believe in second chances and thinks that now is the time to live out the rest of her life, alone, in her unchanging routine. She is devastated when a kite swoops down and snatches one of her chicks; this leads her to rethink her recent marriage proposal.
Widad’s childhood sweetheart, recently widowed. Mitwalli comes to propose to Widad in hopes that they can live the rest of their lives together.