The protagonist of the novel, an attractive young woman from the rural village of Marlott. Her family is poor, but she has been educated and seems to stand out from other girls. She has a… (read full character analysis)
The principle antagonist of the novel, the handsome, libertine son of the wealthy d'Urberville-Stokes. He is fickle and impetuous by nature, but his infatuation with Tess seems more lasting than his feelings for other girls… (read full character analysis)
The intelligent, idealistic son of the parson James Clare. He rejects his father's and brothers' profession to instead study agriculture, and remains skeptical of religion. Tess, Izz, Retty, and Marian all… (read full character analysis)
Tess's father, a peddler with a bad heart condition and a love of alcohol. The novel begins with Durbeyfield learning that he is the last descendent of the ancient d'Urberville family. The news immediately… (read full character analysis)
Reverend James Clare
Angel's father, a parson with a very strict moral code and intense religious fervor. He can be severe but is also extremely charitable, especially towards hopeless cases, and he manages to convert even Alec d'Urberville with his patience and fortitude.
Another of the Talbothays women who loves Angel. Marian responds to his rejection by turning to alcohol. She later gets Tess her job at Flintcomb-Ash.
The third of Tess's Talbothays friends. Retty is also descended from an ancient, noble family, but they, like the d'Urbervilles, have lost all power and wealth. Retty reacts to Angel's rejection by attempting suicide and then leaving the farm.
Angel's mother, a pious woman who is also concerned with upholding social conventions.
Eliza Louisa Durbeyfield
“Liza-Lu,” Tess's younger sister. Tess describes her to Angel as “all the best of me without the bad of me” and asks him to marry her once she is dead.
Tess's inquisitive younger brother. She sends him to fetch their parents from Rolliver's, and later asks him to accompany her on her trip to the Casterbridge market.
Alec's mother, a blind, eccentric old woman who owns a huge estate but spends most of her time tending to her birds. She disapproves of her son's behavior but cannot control him.
Tess's baby from Alec. He only lives a few weeks, and Tess has to baptize and bury him herself.
One of Angel's brothers, the curate of a nearby town who follows all the latest fashions in dress and doctrine.
Angel's other brother, a Fellow and Dean of Cambridge University, also unoriginal in his beliefs.
The pious woman that the Clares hope Angel will marry. Cuthbert ends up marrying her instead.
Dairyman Richard Crick
The master-dairyman of Talbothays farm. A kind employer who is fond of telling rambling, humorous stories.
A man who makes a reference to Tess's past and is struck by Angel. Later he employs Tess at Flintcomb-Ash, but remains an antagonistic character.
“The Queen of Spades,” a girl from Trantridge who was one of Alec's favorites before Tess.
The man who first discovers that the Durbeyfields are related to the d'Urbervilles. His revelation to John Durbeyfield on the road begins the plot of the novel.
Landlady of “The Herons” boarding house, who spies on Tess and Alec arguing and then raises the alarm when she sees a bloodstain spreading across her ceiling.
Dairyman Crick's wife, who makes Angel sit at a separate table from the rest of the workers because of his gentility.
An acquaintance of Dairyman Crick's and a character in his stories, whose escapades relate coincidentally with Tess's life.
a worker at Talbothays.
The ancestor of Alec d'Urberville, who generated the family's wealth as a merchant and changed the family name from Stoke to d'Urberville (somewhat randomly picking d'Urberville) as a way to give his new-money wealth a sense of old-money history.
A younger sister of Tess.
A younger sister of Tess.