Queenie, a blond-haired British woman, consistently demonstrates her curiosity and courage. She is the child of conservative, country parents who are perfectly content to continue in the footsteps of their forbearers. Queenie wants more. She is not afraid of people who are different from her. Rather, she is curious about things that are new. She does not necessarily go out of her way to find new experiences, but she is willing to open her mind to them when they appear on her doorstep.
When Gilbert knocks on her door as he returns her father-in-law to her, she seems a bit cold. However, this is a strategy to keep herself safe: she is a woman who is essentially living on her own, as her father-in-law is not much of a protector. Once Gilbert proves that he has a sense of humor and means no harm, Queenie invites him into her life.
Gilbert is a good-humored man who is intelligent but without the benefit of much education. He likes to make the people around him laugh, mostly at themselves. He is constantly teasing Hortense, whom he recognizes as a woman who likes to put on airs. He attempts to humble her, but he always uses a gentle manner.
Hortense takes a while to warm up to Gilbert. But when she finally sees what he is worth, she completely opens her heart to him. She is not easy to love because she sets such high standards, but she is not cold-hearted.
At first, Bernard is depicted as simply a banker with no heart. But toward the end of the book, while Bernard is at war in India, he comes to life. He exhibits a strong sense of loyalty to the men with whom he is serving and is deeply affected when they are killed. Although Bernard is grossly prejudiced, he comes to forgive his wife for having an affair with a black man and cannot understand why he and Queenie cannot raise the baby themselves.