Anna is the novel’s protagonist and narrator. A young widow and housemaid, during the plague she becomes Eyam’s doctor, nurse, and midwife alongside her mistress, Elinor Mompellion, the vicar’s wife. While she lacks any… read analysis of Anna Frith
The young and beautiful wife of Michael Mompellion, Elinor is Anna'a employer, her comrade in fighting the plague, and by the end of the novel her confidante and friend. Elinor acts as a… read analysis of Elinor Mompellion
Michael Mompellion is Eyam’s vicar, an Anglican preacher who was appointed to the position after Charles II returned to England and ousted the Puritan clergy. In a town that is too small to have any… read analysis of Michael Mompellion
Josiah (or “Joss”) is Anna’s father. He’s drunk and shiftless, often unable to provide for his wife, Aphra, and their many children. He’s also greedy and amoral. He capitalizes on the disorder caused by… read analysis of Josiah Bont
Anys is Eyam’s midwife and healer, who works alongside her aunt, Mem Gowdie. Although the Gowdies are the only citizens possessing any scientific knowledge, most people fear their power to cure illnesses, and they… read analysis of Anys Gowdie
Elizabeth is the daughter of the Colonel and Anne Bradford, the local gentry who haughtily preside over life in Eyam. Elizabeth is pretentious and unpleasant towards everyone of lower social standing, but she’s somewhat… read analysis of Elizabeth Bradford
Colonel Bradford is the head of Eyam’s local family of gentry. Prideful and arrogant, he scorns the common people for whom he is supposed to take care. When the plague strikes, he immediately flees with… read analysis of Colonel Bradford
Anne Bradford is Colonel Bradford’s wife. She is timid and cowed by her husband. After the plague has subsided and the Bradford have returned to Eyam, Anne successfully gives birth to a child when Anna… read analysis of Anne Bradford
Mem Gowdie is a healer and midwife, alongside her niece, Anys. While Anys is flamboyant, often seeming eager to attract attention and perpetuate rumors, Mem is staid and quiet. She has an immense store… read analysis of Mem Gowdie
Sam is Anna’s husband and father of her sons, Jamie and Tom. He is killed in a mining accident before the opening of the book, widowing Anna and forcing her to fend for herself… read analysis of Sam Frith
George Viccars is Eyam’s apprentice tailor, Anna’s lodger, and eventually her suitor. Having lived in London, he seems experienced and cosmopolitan to the villagers, which makes him attractive to Anna. He’s also kind to her… read analysis of George Viccars
Jane is a local girl Anna hires to watch her sons while she’s at work. She’s notable for adhering to Puritan customs even after the town has officially reverted to Anglicanism, showing the tensions that… read analysis of Jane Martin
John and Urith Gordon
The Gordons are a farming couple who live on the outskirts of Eyam. Believing that the plague is a punishment from an angry God who must be appeased by acts of penance, the Gordons begin… read analysis of John and Urith Gordon
When Edward gets sick, the Hadfields send for an expensive barber-surgeon who incorrectly diagnoses him and administers a harmful treatment of leeches. Barber-surgeons were highly respected and considered knowledgeable, but much of the time they… read analysis of Barber-surgeon
Lib is Anna’s childhood friend. At the outset of the novel, they often stop to gossip together, but Anna feels betrayed when Lib succumbs to hysteria and is complicit in the mob killing of Mem… read analysis of Lib Hancock
Thomas Stanley is the Puritan pastor who presided over Eyam during Anna’s youth. When Charles II returned to England, bringing Anglicanism with him, Stanley was ousted from his job and forced to live at… read analysis of Thomas Stanley
Charles is a young nobleman who lives next to Elinor in her youth. Eventually, he convinces Elinor to elope and have sex with him, but subsequently abandons her after he impregnates her. For fear of… read analysis of Charles
Seth and Charity Merrill
Seth and Charity are the young children of Jakob and Maudie Merrill. Too young to take over their father’s farm, they are at risk of becoming penniless orphans when he dies, but Mompellion arranges… read analysis of Seth and Charity Merrill
Earl of Chatsworth
The Earl of Chatsworth is a nobleman from Eyam’s neighboring district. He undertakes to provide Eyam with supplies and money during the quarantine. While Aphra points out that this generosity probably stems from his wish… read analysis of Earl of Chatsworth
Aisha is Mrs. Bradford’s illegitimate daughter, whom Anna adopts and takes away from Eyam because her life is in danger as long as she stays there. Her name means both “life” and “bread,” in Arabic… read analysis of Aisha
The young man
A Londoner who leaves the city when an outbreak of the plague strikes it. He ends up at a dinner party in Eyam (before the plague strikes the town) at the Bradford's house at which… read analysis of The young man
A young man who is among the servants fired by Colonel and Mrs. Bradford when the Bradfords flee from Eyam. Brand's own home town refuses to allow him to return out of fear of the… read analysis of Brand
Alexander and Mary Hadfield
Eyam’s tailors, the Hadfields are Anna’s neighbors and George Viccars’ employers. Their house is the first to be stricken by the plague, and their children the first to die.
The son of Alexander and Mary Hadfield, about Jamie’s age. Edward is the first child to die of the plague.
Martine Milne –
Martin Milne is Eyam’s mason, who dies fairly early in the progress of the plague.
Kate and Richard Talbot
The Talbots are Eyam residents. Richard Talbot is the village blacksmith. Anna first discovers Aphra’s fake charms in the Talbot’s cottage.
A young child, Sally is one of Anna’s neighbors, and dies of the plague along with her entire family.
Margaret is an Eyam citizen, and the first person in the village to survive the plague.
Jakob and Maudie Merrill
The Merrills are Eyam residents. On his deathbed, Jakob confesses his guilt over his bad treatment of Maudie, and Mompellion absolves him of his sins.
George and Cleath Wickford
The Wickfords are Eyam citizens who die of the plague, along with all of their children except one, Merry. As Quakers, they are one of the few families with dissenting religious beliefs.
Merry is the orphaned daughter of George and Cleath Wickford, an engaging and well-mannered girl. Her father bequeaths her his valuable mine claim, and Anna and Elinor prevent it from being “nicked,” or stolen, by another miner, David Burton.
David Burton is a local miner who tries to steal Merry Wickford’s mine claim, and is foiled by Anna and Elinor.
The sexton is a local official whose job it is to dig graves. However, overtaxed by the exhaustion of digging graves for all the plague victims, he dies of heart failure, forcing Mompellion to take over his work.
Christopher is an Eyam resident and one of the first plague survivors. He survives Joss Bont’s attempt to bury him alive and instigates the trial and punishment that lead to Joss’s death.
Widow Brown is an Eyam resident. Joss Bont extorts a valuable bale of wood from her in exchange for burying her husband and son.
Albion is a young miner. One night, Mompellion and Anna catch him drunkenly having sex with Jane Martin in the middle of the road.
Andrew is an Eyam resident who responds to the panic of the plague by building a shack on the moors and living in complete isolation. He demonstrates one of the ways in which social order collapses in the face of catastrophe.
Mary and Randoll Daniel
The Daniels are Eyam residents. Anna delivers Mary’s baby, her first experience as a midwife. Later, Randoll Daniel becomes convinced that flagellation is the only way to keep the plague at bay, and scourges himself publicly.
Mr. Holbroke is the rector of the neighboring town of Hathersage, as well as Mompellion’s trusted confidant.
Lottie and Tom Mowbray
The Mowbrays are Eyam residents. Characterized by Anna as foolish and gullible, they buy a number of fake charms from Aphra posing as the ghost of Anys Gowdie, showing how quickly superstition takes hold in a time of fear and danger.
Ahmed Bey is Anna’s mentor, employer, and husband (in name only) once she arrives in Oran. A wise and talented doctor, he helps her develop her skills and find purpose in a life of science.
Elinor is Anna’s daughter by Michael Mompellion. Anna’s choice to name her daughter after her dead friend, Elinor, shows that she considers that relationship far more important than her brief romance with Mompellion.
Jamie and Tom
The sons of Anna and Sam Frith. When the plague comes to Eyam, the boys die quickly. Their deaths shatter Anna, though she nonetheless continues to work to help and support the rest of her afflicted town.
The oldest wife of Aphram Bey. She is friendly to Anna.
A cook for Colonel and Mrs. Bradford. When the plague strikes Eyam, The Bradfords flee the town and fire Maggie as well as all of their other staff. However, when Maggie returns to her home town, she is run out by residents who fear she might carry the plague.
A local judge, who adjudicates over everything from mining claims to the trial dealing with Josiah's act of thievery.
Anna's young step-sister, and the daughter of Josiah and Aphra. Anna seeks to protect and care for Faith. However, an insane Aphra insists on keeping the girl with her. Anna can do nothing as Aphra locks the girl in her house. Faith dies from the plague.
An old man who wonders why the plague more often strikes the young rather than older people who are ready to die.
A town resident who helps Brand to haul Aphra before the rest of the town when they catch her selling charms. When charged with keeping Aphra overnight before her trial the next day, Robert keeps her in a cave filled with pig manure. The experience drives Aphra insane.
A man who lives in Eyam. He takes to self-flagellation out of the superstitious belief that such religious penance will allow him to survive the plague.