Mr. Barlow, a clergyman charged with the education of Sandford and Merton. He has the boys learn by doing, even insisting that they help in the garden to learn about food. He inspires the boys to learn a great deal. He takes them on excursions to see how the world’s work is done, and he tries to inculcate moral virtues as well as knowledge.
Tommy Merton, a headstrong, ill-tempered, and weak lad. He has been pampered by his doting mother and by the family’s slaves in Jamaica. Upon arriving in England, he has neither a formal education nor any inclination to study. He is sent to the vicarage to live with Mr. Barlow and be educated. With the example of Harry Sandford and the tutelage of Mr. Barlow, Tommy catches up with his education and becomes a healthy, unselfish, and exemplary youth.
Mr. Merton, Tommy’s father, a sensible English gentleman who wants his son to be an educated, virtuous young man.
Harry Sandford, an English farmer’s son. He is a sincere lad with a philosophical attitude. He is educated by Mr. Barlow. He makes a good impression on Mr. Merton and causes the latter to send his son to be educated by the same man. At the vicarage, he is a good example for Tommy Merton to follow.
Mrs. Merton, Tommy’s doting mother. She is displeased by young Harry’s belief that artificiality and the possessions of the rich are unimportant.
Mr. Sandford, a self-sufficient farmer. He refuses to accept Mr. Merton’s payment of money for the good example that his son gave Tommy Merton, saying that he fears that the money would only bring trouble to the family.