In Fred Gipson’s young adult novel Old Yeller, the narrator of the story is fourteen-year-old Travis. Travis takes on the role of “man of the house” when his Pa leaves the family to participate in a cattle drive. Travis is a stoic young man who takes his family responsibilities seriously. He is not enamored with Old Yeller when the stray shows up at the family farm at the time that Pa leaves. Travis’ dislike of Old Yeller is predicated by the loss of his own dog, Bell, with whom he shared an unconditional love.
Little Arliss, Travis’ five-year-old brother, is immediately fond of Old Yeller. He provides the comic relief in the story with his silly little boy antics.
Old Yeller is the stray, “yellow” dog at the heart of the story. He can be a troublemaker but is loyal to both Little Arliss and Travis, which he demonstrates by saving their lives.
Mama is the stalwart of the family while her husband is away. She allows her boys to see her affectionate side, and accepts Old Yeller as part of the family. She is intuitive about Old Yeller being a good dog who ultimately will benefit the family.
Pa plays a minor role in the story as he is away on the cattle drive for much of the book. Bud Searcy is another character. The cattlemen leave him behind because he is a nosey, talkative man that many of the other men find to be an unnecessary distraction.