Carol Milford Kennicott: The novel's central character. After finishing college and working as a librarian in St. Paul, MN, Carol marries a country doctor, Will Kennicott, and moves to Gopher Prairie where she ineffectually tries to change the town to suit her idealized vision of small town life.
Will Kennicott: The youngest of three physicians in Gopher Prairie, MN. His pragmatic outlook on life frustrates his romantically minded wife Carol though she admires his work ethic, moral strength and dependability. His hobbies include hunting, autos and land speculation.
Hugh Kennicott: Carol and Will's first child born several years after their marriage.
Vida Sherwin: A school teacher whose reforming zeal makes her Carol's first friend in Gopher Prairie. Though Vida and Carol generally agree on the ends of reform, Vida is content to patiently chip away at the stone while Carol is determined to engage larger issues and enact sweeping changes.
Bea Sorenson: A Scandinavian farm girl who becomes Carol's housekeeper and friend. Bea marries Miles Bjornstam and bears him a son, Olaf. Bea and Olaf die of typhoid.
Miles Bjornstam: local handyman; nicknamed "The Red Swede" for his pro-labor views he is disliked by most of the respectable members of the town. As a vocal and unrepentant critic of the town's status quo, however, Miles is one of Carol's true friends in Gopher Prairie. He leaves town after the death of his wife and son.
Olaf Bjornstam: Bea and Miles' son who dies of typhoid.
Guy Pollack: A sensitively-minded attorney with whom Carol engages in a brief flirtation.
Raymie Wutherspoon: A shoe salesman at the Bon-Ton, considered "artistic" by the town, he is reticent and retiring until he marries Vida. He becomes a partner in the Bon-Ton and returns from the European War a hero.
Mrs. Bogart: Carol's gossipy, pious, nosy backyard neighbor.
Cy Bogart: Mrs. Bogart's willfully destructive and boastful teenage son.
Aunt Bessie and Uncle Whittier: Will's aunt and uncle whose constant attention and advice frustrate Carol when they move to Gopher Prairie.
Perce Bresnahan: Millionaire President of Velvet Motor Company in Boston and former resident of Gopher Prairie who returns to the small town for a fishing trip and makes advances to Carol.
Erik Valborg: Artistically sensitive son a Scandinavian farmer who moves to Gopher Prairie as a tailor and with whom Carol engages in a drawn-out flirtation.
Fern Mullins: Young, energetic school teacher who becomes one of Carol's best friends but whose reputation is ruined by Cy Bogart when she accompanies him to a dance and he becomes drunk.
Oscarina: The Kennicott's housekeeper after Bea gets married.
Mr. and Mrs. Champ Perry: An older couple who came to Gopher Prairie during the pioneer days and whom Carol befriends in an attempt to discover the past.
Maud Dyer: A married woman with whom Will has an affair.
Mrs. Westlake: Betrays Carol's confidence when she tells other of Carol's criticisms of the town.
Juanita Haydock: Town gossip
James Blausser: A land speculator who heads up a booster campaign to attract more money to the town.