A thirty-six year old pathetic newspaper reporter and the protagonist for the novel. Quoyle is a failure at life, and, the narrator tells, a failure of physical appearance. He is extremely large and clumsy, with a most prominent shelf under his chin. Quoyle is lonely and consigned to seeing himself as a failure, and is therefore vulnerable to the hurt of a cruel lover. His submissive kindness does help him make friends and he is a loving father. He is deathly afraid of water and car wrecks. The prodigy of a long line of wild, dimwitted murderers, Quoyle struggles with segregating himself from the pain of his familial and personal past.
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The "stouthearted" woman in Quoyle's life, the aunt is Quoyle's father Guy's sister. She takes to life's stressors with a vengeance, and even as an older woman, always finds a solution. She is nostalgic for her childhood home in Newfoundland, and determined to repair the old family house to a state of livability. She recognizes Petal's cruelty and helps Quoyle get his life back on track. She has past pains of her own, including the death of her lesbian partner Irene Warren and the trauma of being sexually abused by Guy.
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Bunny is Quoyle's oldest daughter and the one more prone to temper-tantrums and emotional stress. Bunny is deathly afraid of any resemblance of a white dog. Although she looks like Quoyle in size and shape, she is not the object of ridicule and scorn among her peers. She has a penchant for carpentry.
Sunshine is the younger of Quoyle's daughters, she is more easy-going in manner. Like Bunny, she loves her father dearly. She and Bunny play the role of the "maids in the meadow" in Quoyle's life.
Editor of The Gammy Bird in Killick-Claw, Newfoundland. A fisherman through and through, Jack usually chooses fishing over coming into work. He has an uncanny sense about the sea. Although he has saved many from drownings, he failed to save his son Jesson, who died at sea. Although he is almost never around, he maintains a tight grip on his authority at the newspaper, and feels proud that his paper lacks any resemblance to good journalism.
The managing editor for the Gammy Bird, who bears great resemblance to the devil himself. Politically, he falls on the opposite end of the spectrum from Billy Pretty, worshipping oil and the age of technology in general. He is cantankerous and crusty. He has a terrible reputation with typographical errors in the paper, and condemns the harsh living conditions of Newfoundland.
An English castaway on the Newfoundland shore. He ostensibly covers foreign correspondence for the newspaper and tracks down sexual abuse stories. The narrator tells that he is affected by the lunar cycle, as a werewolf. He loves talking about his boat; he made it himself to sail across the Atlantic and plans
Never married, Billy Pretty nonetheless covers the home stories for the Gammy Bird. An old Newfoundland local, he represents the persistence of the old way of life in the region. He is firmly against the all-powerful oil industry, and yearns for the good old days of local fisherman and abundant natural resources. Billy Pretty is Jack Buggit's second cousin, and like Jack is an old fish dog who has an uncanny knowledge of the sea from years of experience.
Quoyle's wife for six years who dies in a car accident after selling her two daughters to a sexual molester. A maliciously cruel, selfish woman, she marries Quoyle for the sex, but is disgusted by every other part of him. She is motivated only by sexual conquest, and she finds one man after another with whom she can act out her infidelity. She hates her children, and wants no part in raising them at all. She haunts both Quoyle and his daughters for many months after she is gone.
The "tall and quiet" woman in Quoyle's life. She is passionately devoted to her son, and just like Quoyle, she is haunted by the memories of a past, abusive lover. Quoyle first notices her for the dignified way she carries herself, and her habit of walking. She is kind, and also loves Quoyle's kids.
Quoyle's father and a sick abusive man. He was responsible for Quoyle's terrible self-image, always abusing Quoyle while siding his Quoyle's brother. He and his wife both matter-of-factly commit suicide at the beginning of the novel.
A carpenter who helps Quoyle and the aunt repair their old family house. He is Jack's son, and has consistently gone against his father's wishes that he stay away from the sea.
Dennis's wife, and a warm mother and homemaker. She takes care of Bunny and Sunshine while Quoyle is at work.
The only living kinsmen of Quoyle and the aunt. True to legend, he is a madman who seems capable of malicious acts. He leaves knotted twine around Quoyle's house like threats. He owns a white dog and lives an impoverished hermit's life.
The aunt's old lesbian partner who died of cancer.
The aunt's dog, named after Irene.
The owners of the Tough Baby, a Dutch ship built for Hitler. They are bruised from fighting with each other. They brag about their expensive yacht, especially for all the destruction it caused during Hurricane Bob. They are also clients of the aunt who is reupholstering the ship for them.
Wavey's uncle, and a ship maker with a good reputation in Killick-Claw. He has a habit of singing the same song repeatedly and takes great pride in making good, solid, and unique boats.
Wavey's son, who has Down's syndrome. He is named for his terrible father. Wavey has become an advocate for Down's children on his behalf, and is a diligent, nurturing mother for him.
The friendly harbormaster with a deep voice. He gives Quoyle the "shipping news" and lets him know about any interesting new vessels in the harbor.
The younger of the aunt's assistants in the upholstery business. She will take any job just to escape from Newfoundland, and is uninterested in Quoyle.
The aunt's assistant in the upholstery business, who helps keep the aunt in line when she begins to falter. Mavis is an older woman, and a terrific gossip.
Quoyle's first friend in the novel. He is a lover of life, and loves sharing it with other people. Quoyle values his friendship and his skillful home- cooking. A copy editor for the local paper, Partridge gets Quoyle his first job as a reporter.
Editor of the first paper where Quoyle is hired. He has a habit of continually firing and hiring Quoyle.