Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The unnamed narrator is staying with his friend Dr. Kennedy. One day while they ride through town looking in on Dr. Kennedy's patients, they meet Amy, Yanko Goorall's widow, and Dr. Kennedy tells the narrator the story of Amy and Yanko.
Dr. Kennedy is the narrator's friend. He has a bronzed face, a large laugh, and gray eyes. He is highly intelligent and a good listener who encourages others to speak at length. He was a surgeon in the Navy and has traveled extensively.
Isaac Foster is Amy's father. He used to be a farmer but is now a shepherd. Dr. Kennedy attributes this decline in career to his marriage. Foster was opposed to Amy's marriage to Yanko at first. He didn't like Yanko and didn't want to lose the money Amy made working. Isaac's wife works as a cook for his widowed father.
Amy Foster is Yanko Goorall's widow. The narrator describes her as a dull woman, and Dr. Kennedy agrees but says she at least had enough imagination to fall in love. Amy is the oldest daughter of a large family and began work at New Barns Farm, where Dr. Kennedy first met her, when she was fifteen. He says that she was very kind and gentle. She fell in love with Yanko after he learned a little English and decided to court her, and they moved into his cottage. Even though Amy loved Yanko enough to marry him, his unfamiliar habits and language scared her. One night she ran off with their son because she was scared by what Yanko was saying while he was sick. He died, and she no longer speaks of him.
Yanko Goorall was a Central European emigrant shipwrecked off the coast of England. He came from the Carpathian Mountains and was on his way to America. He knew very little about the world; Dr. Kennedy found him to be ignorant but kind and good. He did not even know the name of his ship. He couldn't speak English or communicate with the villagers and scared Mrs. Smith when he arrived on her farm. When Mr. Smith came home, Amy asked him to be kind to Yanko. Yanko fell in love with Amy and eventually married her, and the two had a son, Johnny. Yanko died after developing an illness of the lungs; Amy wouldn't help him because she was scared by his asking for water in a language she didn't understand.
The Swaffers are the family who employed Yanko. When he saved the grandchild of the family, the Swaffers gave Yanko a cottage to live in as a reward.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith were Amy's employers. She worked for them for four years.