The narrator of the book appears sporadically as a disembodied narrative “I,” and also, twice, as an actual character who inserts himself into the scene of Victorian England. The narrator suggests that he is also… read analysis of The narrator
Charles is an upper-class amateur paleontologist who believes wholeheartedly in Darwin’s theory of evolution. In fact, he shares his first name with Darwin, gesturing to the importance of evolution to his life. Though Charles believes… read analysis of Charles Smithson
Sarah, the titular French Lieutenant’s Woman, is modeled after the trope of the mysteriously alluring woman who often tempts the male protagonists of Victorian novels. Her motives are always murky, and her actions are unexpected… read analysis of Sarah Woodruff
Ernestina, modeled after the conventional love interest of a Victorian novel, is Charles’s fiancée. She comes from an upper-middle-class family, and even though her family is actually wealthier than Charles’s, she feels very anxious… read analysis of Ernestina Freeman
Sam is Charles’s manservant. He’s a London Cockney, but he has dreams of moving up the social ladder by opening a haberdashery. Although he’s not portrayed as a fundamentally bad person, Sam willingly takes… read analysis of Sam Farrow
Mary is a maid at Mrs. Tranter’s house. She comes from an impoverished country family. She knows she’s pretty, and she’s not above making Ernestina jealous of her looks. She falls in love with… read analysis of Mary
One of the upper-class women of Lyme. Mrs. Poulteney is generally known to be a horrible person who mistreats her servants and judges those around her by skewed religious standards. Her secret is that she… read analysis of Mrs. Poulteney
Ernestina’s father. Mr. Freeman has made his fortune through his draper’s store on Oxford Street. He exemplifies the upper-middle-class nouveau riche of the Victorian Era. Though he strives to be a gentleman and wants… read analysis of Mr. Freeman
When Charles is in London, feeling trapped by his future, he picks up a prostitute on the street because she looks vaguely like Sarah. This woman has a young daughter and goes about her… read analysis of The prostitute
Mrs. Tranter is Ernestina’s aunt, with whom she stays in Lyme. She’s one of the most truly kind characters, and in her treatment of her servants, she acts as a counterexample to Mrs. Poulteney… read analysis of Mrs. Tranter
Charles’s uncle, a baronet. He only cares about fox hunting and he doesn’t understand Charles’s intellectual pursuits. Though he’s been a bachelor his whole life, he finally decides to marry, endangering Charles’s inheritance.
Mrs. Poulteney’s cruel housekeeper. She delights in having Sarah’s activities spied on and then reporting her wrongdoing to Mrs. Poulteney, which eventually gets Sarah fired.
The clergyman who serves Mrs. Poulteney. He suggests that she take Sarah in to pave her way to heaven. He doesn’t particularly like Mrs. Poulteney, but he humors her because she donates freely to his church.
A clergyman who lets Charles pray in his church in Exeter. His religion leans towards Catholicism.
A servant of Mrs. Poulteney’s whom Sarah saves from being fired. She has a breakdown and begins to sleep in Sarah’s bed for comfort.
A servant at Winsyatt. She acted as a mother figure to Charles when he was little.
The owner of Endicott’s Family Hotel, where Sarah stays in Exeter. She cares only about how much money her guests will pay for a room.
Sir Thomas Burgh
A man Charles knows from his time at Cambridge. He has a reputation of living entirely for pleasure, and he takes Charles to a brothel in London.
Mr. Freeman’s lawyer.
An official of the law who presides at the meeting that Charles has with Mr. Freeman and his lawyers. He has a frightening reputation.
Charles and Sarah’s daughter.
Sarah’s former employer, who wants to help her after her affair with Varguennes. Mrs. Talbot’s loving relationship with her family constantly reminds Sarah of what she believes she can never have.