James Pullman, a man who has recently died. He exists in an indistinct dimension in which time and space are flexible. At first, he does not know where he is going or what he is doing. Gradually, he realizes that he is one of many petitioners to a court that will decide if he should be allowed to enter Heaven. He is an intellectual and was a writer of satire in his former life.
Satterthwaite, called Satters, a childish individual who was at school with Pullman. The two meet again shortly after they arrive in this mysterious afterworld. Satterthwaite had been unable to cope with his peers and therefore was dependent on Pullman when they were at school; he assumes the same subservient role in this life. Unfortunately, he has many destructive and bullying tendencies. When the two drift into the seventeenth century, he casually destroys Tom Paine.
The Bailiff, the director of the court in the afterworld. In his first appearance, he seems a rather buffoonish figure who presides over the petitioners’ requests, dispensing completely arbitrary judgments. He tells all who wait that they have no rights, except the right to petition. He arrives at the court announced by trumpets and borne in a litter carried by Nubian slaves. His personality changes constantly. Although he is a powerful figure, he delights in adopting new and often ridiculous personas.
Hyperides (hi-PEHR-ih-dees), the main challenger to the rule of the Bailiff. At first, he appears as an intellectual, espousing a classical view of life that challenges the Bailiff’s arbitrary vulgarity.