Meggie Cleary, the protagonist whose life we follow from childhood up, is a good female character. She is pretty, appealing, loving, and devoted, as well as courageous. She cares deeply about Drogheda. She is strong enough to be able to endure the suffering that besets her throughout the novel, such as in her deeply unloving marriage to Luke, in her forbidden affair with Father de Bricassart, and in the death of Dane.
Justine, Meggie's daughter, I would also consider a good character. She is strong, very independent, and willing to forge her own path in life in a way that will help her avoid the suffering that has plagued her mother and grandmother. She can be willful, but she is able to find happiness for herself, a remarkable feat for a woman in this novel.
Fiona (Fee) Cleary, Meggie's mother, is in between, worn down by life. We learn early on that:
she was a silent woman, not given to spontaneous conversation. What she thought, no one ever knows, even her husband; she left the disciplining of the children to him, and did whatever he commanded without comment or complaint unless the circumstance were most unusual.
Despite being worn down, she loves her five sons, and she loves Meggie. However, Fiona also speaks harshly to the adult Meggie, for example, in telling her that she knows who Dane's father is and that Meggie will pay for having an affair with a priest.
Mary Carson, Meggie's aunt, is an evil woman. She implies that she will make her brother and his family her heirs; but instead, she writes two wills in a sadistic attempt to tempt Father de Bricassart to sin by leaving a vast sum of money to the church in one will and most of her money to the Cleary family in the other. She gambles, rightly, that the priest will make public only the will that helps his career in the church. She says, cruelly,
I'll pin you to the wall on your own weakness, I'll make you sell yourself like any painted whore.
However, it is Father de Bricassart who makes the choice to do the wrong thing, not Mary, and she does leave the Clearys enough to live on.