Gertrude Morel

The first protagonist of the novel. She becomes unhappy with her husband Walter and devotes herself to her children.

Paul Morel

Paul Morel takes over from his mother as the protagonist in the second half of the book. After his brother William’s death, Paul becomes his mother’s favorite and struggles throughout the novel to balance his love for her with his relationships with other women.

Walter Morel

Gertrude’s husband, a coal miner.

William Morel

Their first son, who is Mrs. Morel’s favorite until he falls ill and dies.

Annie Morel

Paul’s older sister. When their mother lies dying toward the end of the novel, she and Paul decide to give her an overdose of morphia pills.

Arthur Morel

Paul’s younger brother, not central to the plot.

Miriam Leivers

The daughter of the family at Willey Farm. She befriends Paul and becomes his first love.

Clara Dawes

A friend of Miriam’s, she is a suffragette, who is separated from her husband. She becomes Paul’s second love, and they have a passionate affair.

Baxter Dawes

Clara’s husband. He fights with Paul, but they later become friends while he is ill.

Mrs. Radford

Clara’s mother.

Thomas Jordan

The owner of the factory where Paul works. Paul dislikes him from their first interview because he is rude and makes Paul look foolish. He later fires Baxter Dawes because he knocks him down a flight of stairs.

Louisa Lily Denys Western

A girl William sees in London, and to whom he becomes engaged. The rest of the family is less than impressed with her when he brings her home, and William shortly becomes sick of her as well.

Mr. and Mrs. Leivers, Agatha, Edgar, Geoffrey, Maurice

The family who live at Willey Farm.


A hunchback who works in the finishing-off room at the factory, who likes to have Paul come visit her to sing or talk. She organizes the other girls to get Paul a birthday present.

John Field

A man with whom Gertrude is friendly when she is nineteen. He gives her a Bible, which she keeps for the rest of her life. From John she learns that “being a man isn’t everything.”

Jerry Purdy

Walter Morel’s bosom friend. Walter goes for a walk to Nottingham with Jerry, during which he takes the nap on the ground that eventually causes an illness.

Mr. Heaton

The Congregational clergyman who visits with Mrs. Morel every day after Paul is born. He is Paul’s godfather and teaches him French, German, and mathematics.

Beatrice Wyld

A friend of the Morel family who ridicules Miriam and flirts with Paul. She eventually marries Arthur when he returns from the army.

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