Remi: the protagonist; a young man in the Maura Tribe who is sent to the city to go to school and returns to his villiage to govern; after marrying his brother's wife, he rejects his duties at home and returns to the city.
Thoni: the widow of Remi's older brother who becomes Remi's wife upon his return; she is scorned by her new husband.
Nyobi: Remi's mother; she has recently converted to Christianity and supports Remi's wife.
Jane: Remi's lover from the university.
The Pastor: a strict and devout Christian who encourages Nyobi to convert Thoni to Christianity.
Omange: another of Remi's school friends; also an activist, he ironically encourages Remi to go home and take care of his wife.
The main character in the play is Remi, a high status (in terms of his tribe) tragic hero who has become educated and is caught between wanting to stay in the city with his white girlfriend and the responsibility he has to return to and help his native tribal village. He reaches a compromise with himself that he will return to the village, but just for a time. His hostility to tribalism and his position of being caught between two worlds leads to tragedy. He truly can't go home again.
Jane is Remi's white, university-educated girlfriend. She is in love with Remi but can't follow him back to the tribe, which is a completely alien culture to her. She has to face losing him to his old world.
Thoni, Remi's tribal wife, ends up committing suicide after Remi treats her badly and rejects her way of life.
Nyobi, Remi's mother, and the pastor both represent Christianity, which is critiqued by playwright Ngugi.