Louis Cornvelt, an upper-middle-class Hollander. An ultraconservative, orthodox Calvinist, he expects from his family complete adherence to his way of life and submission to his will.
Sarah Cornvelt, and
David Cornvelt, Louis Cornvelt’s children. After a brief youthful rebellion, each finds himself or herself too accustomed to parental domination to break the habit of obedience and finally bows submissively to the father’s will.
Marie Elizabeth (Lysbeth) Sylvain
Marie Elizabeth (Lysbeth) Sylvain, sometimes called Sylvia, Louis Cornvelt’s orphaned niece, who comes to live in her uncle’s home. She brings new ideas that inspire Louis’ children to a brief rebellion. When her uncle refuses to allow her to earn a living, she runs away to France. Later, with an inherited fortune, she returns to Holland to work for the emancipation of women.
Doctor William Wiseman
Doctor William Wiseman, Katie Cornvelt’s husband, whom she marries in obedience to her father’s will, even though the young doctor is repugnant to her.
Doctor Eliza Wiseman
Doctor Eliza Wiseman, the daughter of Katie Cornvelt and William Wiseman. She scandalizes her parents by wishing to become a doctor and receives help and encouragement from Marie Elizabeth Sylvain.
Louis Cornvelt, David Cornvelt’s rebellious son, a political radical.
Clara Cornvelt, David Cornvelt’s daughter, who gives in to her father in matters of love, though she persists in continuing as a social worker among the lowest classes.
Stephen Cornvelt, Dr. Eliza Wiseman’s nephew. Infatuated with Millicent Cornvelt, he asks his wife Dorothy for a divorce.
Dorothy Cornvelt, Stephen Cornvelt’s wife, a lawyer and member of Parliament. Her life is empty because of her family’s indifference to her success and her husband’s infatuation with Millicent Cornvelt.
Millicent Cornvelt, the great-granddaughter of Louis Cornvelt, Sr.
Puck Cornvelt, the daughters of Stephen and Dorothy Cornvelt. They are unhappy in the insecurity of their unstable home.