Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1534
Paul Dombey, a London merchant, referred to as Mr. Dombey throughout the novel. Twenty successful years in the firm of Dombey and Son have brought wealth to the stern and pompous Mr. Dombey. Ten years of marriage finally bring a son and happiness (despite his wife’s death) to the unemotional, dignified, glossy businessman, for the son will occupy his rightful place in the firm. Jealous and possessive, Mr. Dombey resents his son’s affection for Florence, the older Dombey daughter. Later he sends Walter Gay, a young clerk attentive to the daughter, on an extended trip to the West Indies, and he loses his second wife because he approaches personal relationships as if they were business transactions in his office. Through reversals in both personal and business affairs, Mr. Dombey senses that his shortcomings lie in what he has always considered his strength: a belief in his indomitability. This realization results in a modicum of happiness for him as he accepts his daughter’s love after spurning her all her life.
Paul Dombey, his son and heir, who is the essence of Dombey’s life. Before the child was born, Mr. Dombey had yearned for a son; during Paul’s life, he is jealous of his attentions to others, over-solicitous for his health, and unrealistic in treating the child as his longed-for business partner. After Paul’s death at the age of six, Mr. Dombey in his disillusionment considers the death a personal injustice to himself. Paul, a weak, precocious child, is uncommonly preoccupied with death, an interest that seems, in the Dickensian manner, to portend his early demise.
Florence Dombey, six years older than Paul. Until she is grown, Florence bears the brunt of her father’s unreasonable animosity. Courageous and compassionate, she withstands her father’s affronts and ill-temper. Of strong faith, she does not despair at failures or rebuffs. Devoted and appreciative of love, she is a good wife to Walter Gay. Ultimately, Florence’s altruism comes full circle when she has a son, Paul, who aids in her father’s realization of his daughter’s longstanding love.
Walter Gay, her childhood friend and later her husband. The model of good upbringing and training, he is instrumental in her safety and well-being. The last instance of his protectorship is as her husband and father of their children, when the Gays return to London to save Dombey from self-destruction and to give him renewed interest in life when he sees his grandchildren in the light in which he should have viewed his own daughter and son.
Mrs. Fanny Dombey
Mrs. Fanny Dombey, Mr. Dombey’s first wife, the mother of Florence and Paul.
Mrs. Edith Granger
Mrs. Edith Granger, Dombey’s second wife and his female counterpart in stubbornness and pride. Thwarted in her role as wife, she strikes back by pretending to elope with James Carker, Dombey’s head clerk. Her wounded pride continues through the years; she finally declares her innocence of an affair with Carker, but she refuses to see Dombey to ask his forgiveness.
James Carker, Dombey’s trusted head clerk and manager, whose villainy brings about his employer’s professional and personal ruin. Deserted by Mrs. Dombey in the hour of their elopement, he is killed by a train while trying to avoid a meeting with Dombey.
Solomon Gills, a maker of nautical instruments and Walter Gay’s uncle. With his loyal friend and partner, Captain Cuttle, he produces instruments that make his name a byword in safe navigation.
Edward Cuttle, an old sailor generally known as Captain Cuttle or Captain Ned. Adding much to the story with his salty mariner jargon, he becomes Florence Dombey’s protector when she is rejected by her father.
Miss Lucretia Tox
Miss Lucretia Tox, a friend of Dombey’s sister, who finds the wet nurse for the infant Paul. In her attentions to the child, she obviously has designs on Dombey, her devotion to him being sustained in a platonic manner throughout his life.
Major Joseph Bagstock
Major Joseph Bagstock, a retired army officer, a neighbor and an admirer of Miss Tox. The typically proud old officer is introduced to point up the transition in Miss Tox’s affections. It is he who introduces Mr. Dombey to Edith Granger.
Mrs. Polly Toodle
Mrs. Polly Toodle, the wet nurse, renamed Richards, a more respectable appellation for the atmosphere of the Dombey house. Summarily dismissed for negligence after Florence strays and suffers a traumatic experience with a derelict woman, Mrs. Toodle remains in the story in connection with Miss Tox and lesser characters.
Mr. Toodle, Polly Toodle’s husband, a stoker and engine-driver.
Robin Toodle, their son, also called Biler and Rob the Grinder. Mr. Dombey secures him a place in the establishment of “The Honorable Grinders,” but he meets with so much ridicule and abuse that he runs away. Later, he acts as a spy for James Carker; still later, he enters the employ of Miss Tox in his attempt to regain respectability.
Dr. Blimber, the owner of a select private school attended by Paul Dombey.
Mrs. Blimber, his wife, a silly, stupid woman.
Cornelia Blimber, their daughter, a bluestocking and a lover of dead languages.
John Carker, James Carker’s brother and an under-clerk in the employ of Dombey and Son. Years before, he had stolen money from the firm, but because he had been led astray by bad companions, he had not been discharged. He repays this trust by years of faithful service. Dismissed after his brother’s elopement with Mrs. Dombey, he inherits his brother’s fortune and is able to live quietly but comfortably. After Mr. Dombey goes bankrupt, he turns the interest of his fortune over to his former employer and pretends that he is repaying an old, forgotten debt.
Harriet Carker, the sister of James and John Carker. She marries Mr. Morfin.
Mr. Morfin, the cheerful head clerk at Dombey and Son. He befriends John Carker and marries his sister Harriet.
Susan Nipper, Florence Dombey’s maid and companion. Discharged after she reproves Mr. Dombey for his treatment of his daughter, she marries Mr. Toots.
Mr. P. Toots
Mr. P. Toots, a pupil at Doctor Blimber’s school for young gentlemen. Rich and eccentric, he spends much of his time writing letters to himself and signing them with the names of famous personages, and his most commonplace remarks are filled with biblical and literary allusions. He falls in love with Florence Dombey, but when she discourages his attentions, he marries Susan Nipper instead and fathers a large brood of children.
Captain Jack Bunsby
Captain Jack Bunsby, Captain Cuttle’s close friend. Innocently unaware of the wiles of women, he marries Mrs. MacStinger, his landlady.
Mrs. MacStinger, a domineering, designing widow, as quick with her hand as with her tongue. She marries Captain Bunsby.
Charles (Chowley), and
Juliana, Mrs. MacStinger’s children by her first marriage.
Mrs. Pipchin, an ill-favored widow with whom Paul and Florence Dombey are sent to board at Brighton, later Mr. Dombey’s housekeeper.
Berinthia, also called Berry, Mrs. Pipchin’s unmarried niece and servant.
Alice Brown, also called Alice Marwood, James Carker’s former mistress, transported for felony. She returns, filled with hate and defiance, to England.
Mrs. Brown, her mother.
Mrs. Louisa Chick
Mrs. Louisa Chick, Mr. Dombey’s sister, a good-natured but smug woman.
John Chick, her husband, who constantly hums or whistles tunes.
Mr. Feeder, an assistant at Doctor Blimber’s school and later his son-in-law.
The Reverend Alfred Feeder
The Reverend Alfred Feeder, his brother.
The Hon. Mrs. Skewton
The Hon. Mrs. Skewton, also called Cleopatra, an aged beauty and Edith Dombey’s mother, who puts her daughter up for the highest bidder in the marriage market. She dies soon after her daughter’s marriage to Mr. Dombey.
Lord Feenix, Mrs. Skewton’s superannuated nephew, a man about town.
The Game Chicken
The Game Chicken, a professional prize fighter and Mr. Toot’s boxing instructor.
The Reverend Melchisedech Howler
The Reverend Melchisedech Howler, a ranting clergyman who predicts the end of the world.
Sir Barnet Skettles
Sir Barnet Skettles, a time-serving, self-seeking member of the House of Commons.
Lady Skettles, his wife.
Barnet Skettles, a pupil at Doctor Blimber’s school.
Briggs, Paul Dombey’s roommates at Doctor Blimber’s school.
Anne, a housemaid,
Thomas Towlinson, a footman, and
Mary Daws, a kitchen maid, servants in the Dombey household.
Mr. Clark, a clerk, and
Mr. Perch, a messenger, employees of Dombey and Son.
Mrs. Perch, the messenger’s wife, usually in an interesting condition.
Dr. Parker Peps
Dr. Parker Peps, the attending physician at the birth of Paul Dombey because of his reputation as an obstetrician.
Dr. Pilkins, Mr. Dombey’s family doctor.