The protagonist and partial narrator of the novel, Antoinette Cosway is a creole, or person of European descent born in the Caribbean. Throughout the novel, her relationships with others are marked by alienation, exclusion, and… (read full character analysis)
Antoinette’s nurse, Christophine is respected and feared among blacks and whites alike. She is a practitioner of obeah (a voodoo-like magic), which both accounts for her power over others and ultimately gets her in trouble… (read full character analysis)
Antoinette’s mother, Annette is a widow at the start of the novel, sunk into debt after the death of her husband. Her relationship with Antoinette is distant, owing partially to her preoccupation with her sick… (read full character analysis)
Possibly the half brother of Antoinette through an illicit affair between her father Old Cosway and one of his slaves, Daniel Cosway is deeply embittered by his exclusion from the Cosway fortune. He writes to… (read full character analysis)
A maid at Granbois, Amélie is disdainful of both the husband and Antoinette, but fears Christophine. She engages in a sexual relationship with the husband within earshot of Antoinette, and expresses to the husband her plans of moving to Rio and using men for money.
A rich widow, Aunt Cora represents a stabilizing force in Antoinette’s life. She takes her in after Coulibri is burned, arranges for her education at the convent school, and attempts to provide for her by giving her jewelry to sell after she is disinherited by her marriage.
The son of Mr. Mason and stepbrother of Antoinette, Richard Mason oversees Antoinette’s marriage arrangements following the death of his father, signing over the entirety of Antoinette’s inheritance to the husband. When he visits the husband’s manor in England, Antoinette attacks him with a knife.
Antoinette’s, Pierre’s, and possibly Daniel Cosway’s father. He is dead before the start of the novel, but his licentiousness, brutality, and potential madness affect the lives of his family members for years to come. He leaves his family deep in debt when he dies.
A black girl, Tia is Antoinette’s only childhood friend. They share a close friendship until they fall out over a bet. During the attack on Coulibri, Tia hits Antoinette in the forehead with a rock and they both weep.
The second cousin and lover of Antoinette, Sandi actually appears in the novel only once. The ramifications of his affair with Antoinette, however, return repeatedly to trouble Antoinette’s relationship with the husband, and later to haunt her memories during her imprisonment in the husband’s attic.
The butler at Coulibri, Godfrey is caught between the black community and his white employers. He maintains a detached moral stance as the conflict between the Cosway’s and their black neighbors escalates, but is ultimately horrified at the attack on Coulibri, calling the mob “brute beasts.”
The butler at Granbois. He quietly distrusts the husband and is sympathetic with Antoinette, giving her rum to calm her down after the husband’s affair with Amelie.
Louise de Plana
A fellow student at the convent school, and role model to Antoinette. Louise de Plana and her sisters are revered for their deportment, cleanliness, and beauty.
A neighbor of the Cosway’s, Mr. Luttrell is a former slaveowner who commits suicide early on in the novel, unable to adjust to the changes in Jamaica post-Emancipation. His death rattles Annette, who feels completely isolated without his presence.
A magistrate, or member of law enforcement acquainted with the husband in Jamaica. Mr. Fraser informs the husband that Christophine is a practitioner of obeah with a criminal record, and he considers her dangerous.
Antoinette’s younger brother, Pierre is mentally and physically handicapped. His death from injuries suffered in the fire at Coulibri precipitates Annette’s grief-stricken decline into madness.
The Young Bull
A porter who accompanies the husband and Antoinette on their journey to Granbois, and attempts to impress the husband with his knowledge of English and his disdain of his fellow servants.
Sister Marie Augustine
A nun at the convent school who offers Antoinette hot chocolate after she wakes up from her recurring nightmare. She is unable to answer Antoinette’s question about why terrible things happen in the world.
A young servant girl at Granbois, Hilda fears the husband and communicates mainly in bashful giggles.
One of the few servants who remained in the Cosway family’s employ after Emancipation. He and Sass play an instrumental role in helping the family escape when fire is set to the house.
The unnamed servant boy at Granbois weeps disconsolately when the husband and Antoinette leave for England. According to Antoinette, he weeps because he loves the husband, and wants to continue working for him, without pay.
One of the few servants who remained in the Cosway family’s employ after Emancipation. His full name is Disastrous, because his godmother liked the sound of the word.
Christophine’s son. Christophine likens him to a “leaky calabash” because of his inability to keep a secret.
The housekeeper at the husband’s manor in England, Mrs. Eff is very loyal to the husband and defends him against Grace Poole’s suspicion.
A maid at the husband’s manor in England.