Matt Fowler is the main character of the story. He is, on first appearance, a normal middle aged man who works to support his family and loves his three grown children. Through nighttime conversations with his wife, the audience sees that Fowler, in a very human way, is unable to share his real thoughts and feelings with his wife. However, it is assumed that she understands this about him and what is not said between them does not need to be said.
Willis, a restaurant owner and Fowler's slightly older and shorter friend, is not given as much description in the story. He is an accomplice to well planned murder of Strout, and as such, he comes across (though briefly) as a straightforward man who does what he believes needs to be done. He and Fowler don't seem to speak much in the course of the story, indicative of a somewhat typical male characterization. Like Fowler, Willis takes care of his wife at home and seems okay with the fact that he is hiding a secret from her.
Finally, Richard Strout, is the cold-blooded killer of Frank Fowler. Upon description of his high school and early college days he seems to be a bit of a bully. He's an athlete who fails out of school and cannot even take over the business his father would practically hand over to him. This initial picture is one that is pitiable, but little else. Upon description of the how and why behind his initial murder, Strout is characterized as heartless and prone to a quick temper. On the night of his own death, however, as he and Fowler move throughout Strout's home, a somewhat surprising characterization follows. His home is described as neat, clean, well organized, and somewhat empty. It is almost as if he is a Type-A bachelor who lost himself one night and murdered the man who was sleeping with his wife in a fit of rage that was taken one step beyond perhaps even what Strout himself knew he was capable of.