Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 418
Esther Waters, an uneducated servant girl, sturdily built but graceful; she is rather sullen-looking except when she smiles. As she grows older, she becomes stout but retains a natural dignity despite her unhappy life. Her devoutness, though it causes mockery among the Barfield servants, brings her comfort. Pregnant and disgraced, Esther loses her job and is later left alone when her mother dies and her stepfather moves to Australia. She experiences hard times until Miss Rice employs her before her marriage to the reckless William Latch. Her love for and pride in Jackie provide some joy in an otherwise sad life.
William Latch, son of the cook at Woodview. He is strong but shallow-chested. His forehead is low and narrow, his nose long, chin pointed, cheeks hollow and bloodless, and eyes lusterless. He is an inveterate gambler. Taking advantage of Esther’s innocence, he seduces her by promising to marry her. Annoyed by Esther’s sulking, he elopes with Peggy, who later leaves him. Chancing upon Esther several years later, he persuades her to marry him instead of Fred. Though he prospers for a while, gambling ruins him, and tuberculosis finally kills him.
Mrs. Barfield, Esther’s mistress at Woodview, a deeply religious woman who is Esther’s friend as well as her employer. Though she dismisses Esther after her pregnancy is discovered, it is to Mrs. Barfield that Esther returns after William’s death, and she proudly introduces Jackie to her before he leaves for army service.
Sarah Tucker, another servant at Woodview who is jealous of William’s attentions to Esther.
Jackie, Esther’s son, whom she loves deeply and of whom she is very proud.
Fred Parsons, Esther’s betrothed, colorless but honest, dependable, and religious. Against her good judgment, Esther turns from a planned marriage to Fred to the uncertainty of one to William because Jackie prefers him.
Miss Rice, a writer and a later employer of Esther, who is sympathetic regarding her plight before her marriage to William.
Mrs. Latch, William’s ill-tempered mother, who makes working conditions unpleasant for Esther at Woodview.
Peggy Barfield, Mr. Barfield’s cousin, with whom William elopes.
Mr. Barfield, master of Woodview, formerly a famous steeplechase rider, now a portly and well-to-do owner of a stable of racehorses. When Esther returns to Woodview years later, Barfield has died after losing most of his money because of racing debts.