Coraline Jones, the novel’s protagonist, is an only child who has just moved to a new apartment where she has to amuse herself for the rest of the summer, without the aid of her parents’ involvement or friends her own age. While Coraline’s exact age is never revealed, she is probably around ten or eleven—old enough to be left home alone and explore the grounds of her apartment building by herself, too old to play with dolls, but young enough to wonder about strange worlds beyond a locked door. Coraline’s main attributes are her curiosity, her willingness to explore dangerous situations, and her bravery and loyalty toward her parents, even if they do not pay as much attention to her as she would like. Beyond these attributes, Coraline’s specific interests and character traits are not well developed. The author seems to make a conscious choice to keep Coraline a bit of an “every girl,” like Alice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, who can stand in for any curious preadolescent.
Coraline’s parents, who are never named, play only a tangential role in the story. We know only that they are distracted by work and, while well-meaning and pleasant, do not pay much attention to their daughter. The parents' limited role is another deliberate decision on Gaiman’s part: the novel is clearly Coraline’s story; she must play the active role, without relying on the help of adult figures.
Coraline’s other mother is the only real character in the other world, with the exception of the black cat and Coraline herself. The other mother has created the other father and other neighbors and controls their actions, so they are only extensions of herself. The other mother represents the cruel, greedy, cunning nature of true evil. Though she attempts to hide her true nature, her attempts become less and less successful as the narrative progresses. The other mother is soulless and heartless; she steals children’s souls and keeps their ghosts trapped forever. Although she promises Coraline the she will lavish her with love...
(The entire section is 834 words.)