The novel's hero, Gabriel Oak is a farmer, shepherd, and bailiff, marked by his humble and honest ways, his exceptional skill with animals and farming, and an unparalleled loyalty. He is Bathsheba's first suitor, later the bailiff on her farm, and finally her husband at the very end of the novel. Gabriel is characterized by an incredible ability to read the natural world and control it without fighting against it. He occupies the position of quiet observer throughout most of the book, yet he knows just when to step in to save Bathsheba and others from catastrophe.
The beautiful young woman at the center of the novel, who must choose among three very different suitors. She is the protagonist, propelling the plot through her interaction with her various suitors. At the beginning of the novel, she is penniless, but she quickly inherits and learns to run a farm in Weatherbury, where most of the novel takes place. Her first characteristic that we learn about is her vanity, and Hardy continually shows her to be rash and impulsive. However, not only is she independent in spirit, she is independent financially; this allows Hardy to use her character to explore the danger that such a woman faces of losing her identity and lifestyle through marriage.
The novel's antagonist, Troy is a less responsible male equivalent of Bathsheba. He is handsome, vain, young, and irresponsible, though he is capable of love. Early in the novel he is involved with Fanny Robin and gets her pregnant. At first, he plans to marry her, but when they miscommunicate about which church to meet at, he angrily refuses to marry her, and she is ruined. He forgets her and marries the rich, beautiful Bathsheba. Yet when Fanny dies of poverty and exhaustion later in the novel with his child in her arms, he cannot forgive himself.
Bathsheba's second suitor and the owner of a nearby farm, Boldwood, as his name suggests, is a somewhat wooden, reserved man. He seems unable to fall in love until Bathsheba sends him a valentine on a whim, and suddenly he develops feelings for her. Once he is convinced he loves her, he refuses to give up his pursuit of her, and he is no longer rational. Ultimately, he becomes crazy with obsession, shoots Troy at his Christmas party, and is condemned to death. His sentence is changed to life imprisonment at the last minute.
A young orphaned servant girl at the farm who runs away the night Gabriel arrives, attempts to marry Sergeant Troy, and finally dies giving birth to his child at the poor house in Casterbridge. She is a foil to Bathsheba, showing the fate of women who are not well cared for in this society.
Bathsheba's maid and confidant, of about the same age as Bathsheba
Farm laborer and friend to Gabriel Oak
A shy, timid farm laborer who blushes easily, Poorgrass carries Fanny's coffin from Casterbridge back to the farm for burial.
A young boy who works as Gabriel Oak's assistant shepherd on the Everdene farm.
The bailiff on Bathsheba's farm who is caught stealing grain and dismissed. He disappears for most of the novel until he recognizes Troy at Greenhill Fair and helps Troy surprise Bathsheba at Boldwood's Christmas party.