Esther Greenwood The "I" of The Bell Jar.
Buddy Willard Esther's boyfriend, the son of one of her mother's friends. Buddy is a student at Yale; he plans to be a doctor.
Doreen The glamorous, sexy, fiction contest winner from the South. She and Esther meet in New York City, where Doreen tries to help Esther with clothes and men.
Jay Cee Editor of Ladies' Day magazine; she is Esther's boss in New York City. Jay Cee is somewhat dowdy, but a competent professional woman.
Betsy The Ladies' Day winner from the Midwest. Bright and ingenuous, Betsy becomes a model. As Esther's "innocent" friend, Betsy lends her a skirt and blouse for Esther's trip home.
Gladys Waitress on the Cape. Buddy Willard has an affair with her.
Lenny Shepherd New York disc jockey who dresses like a cowboy. He seduces Doreen.
Frankie Friend of Lenny.
Elly Higginbottom Esther's New York pseudonym, used at such times as her excursion to Lenny's, when she wishes to be incognito.
Esther's Grandfather He works at a country club and introduces Esther to caviar and vichyssoise. He jokes that he will supply all the caviar she can eat for Esther's wedding.
Hilda A tall, green-eyed girl, one of the fashion contest winners; she makes startling hats.
Esther's Mother Mrs. Greenwood teaches shorthand and typing to support the family after Esther's father dies.
Mr. Manzi Teaches physics and chemistry at Esther's college.
Philomena Guinea Esther's patroness, a wealthy novelist whose first book is made into a silent film starring Bette Davis.
Constantin A simultaneous interpreter for the UN. Mrs. Willard gives him Esther's phone number.
Socrates and Attila Men with interesting names that Esther has "collected."
Mrs. Willard Buddy's mother. She has a college degree but spends most of her time housekeeping. She has many theories on relationships between men and women.
Joan Gilling A sporting girl from Esther's hometown who has dated Buddy. She hangs herself after a brief period in a mental hospital.
Will A third-year medical student who thinks that Esther shouldn't watch a baby being born.
Jody Esther's best (and only) girl friend in college.
Eric A boy whom Esther comforts when his girl friend jilts him. She thinks she'd like to go to bed with him.
Mr. Willard Buddy's father. A shy economics professor, married to Mrs. Willard. He takes Esther to the Adirondacks to visit Buddy.
Marco A Peruvian who assaults Esther on their first date.
Mrs. Ockenden A neighbor of the Greenwoods. She reports Esther's behavior to Mrs. Greenwood.
Dodo Conway A neighbor of the Greenwoods; she has six children and is pregnant again.
Elaine The heroine in Esther's "novel."
Dr. Gordon The psychiatrist who is recommended to Esther.
George Bakewell A remote acquaintance of Esther; he visits her in the mental hospital where he is the houseman.
Mrs. Mole A red-haired patient at the hospital who has to be locked up for her erratic behavior.
Dr. Nolan Esther's female psychiatrist at the hospital.
Valerie and Miss Norris Patients at the mental hospital.
DeeDee and Loubelle Other patients at the mental hospital.
Mrs. Savage A patient in the hospital; a former Vassar girl.
Miss Huey The nurse who administers electro-shock therapy.
Milly and Theodora Girls at Esther's college who are thought to be lesbians.
Dr. Quinn Joan's psychiatrist, a single lady.
Nurse Kennedy A woman whom Joan shares an apartment with when she is an out-patient, where Esther goes after her date with Irwin.
Irwin A young mathematician and college professor; Esther very rationally "chooses" him to make love to her for the first time.