Joanna Godden, a strong woman who upon the death of her father takes firm control of the family farm, Little Ansdore, and her sister Ellen. Her neighbors consider her a foolish, stubborn woman, but she thinks she can operate a farm better than anyone else, and she proves she can; yet her life seems empty of a man after the man she loves, Martin Trevor, dies. After some years, she takes a casual lover and becomes pregnant. She decides to sell the farm and start life anew with her child, though she will not marry the father because she does not really love him.
Martin Trevor, the man who makes Joanna feel for the first time that she is a woman before she is a farmer. He falls ill, however, and dies before he and Joanna can be married.
Squire Trevor, Martin’s father. Ellen Godden becomes infatuated with him after her marriage and follows him to Dover.
Albert Hill, a man thirteen years younger than Joanna, whom she meets on a trip. Though he fathers her child, she will not marry him.
Arthur Alce, who loves Joanna deeply. He loves her so much that at her request he marries her sister. His wife thinks, however, that she has stolen the man from Joanna. When Ellen follows Squire Trevor to Dover, Arthur Alce moves away but refuses to give his wife a divorce. He dies accidentally, leaving his farm not to his wife but to Joanna.
Ellen Godden, Joanna’s young sister, dominated by Joanna. She marries Arthur thinking she has taken him from Joanna. Later, she becomes infatuated with Squire Trevor. After following him to Dover she returns to live with her sister.