Ethan Frome A long-time resident of Starkfield. He is a thoughtful, sensitive, and extremely unhappy man. Ethan barely supports himself, his wife (Zeena), and his wife's cousin (Mattie) working his farm and operating a sawmill. A sledding accident with Mattie, which was an attempted suicide, results in his physical disability.
Zenobia Frome (Zeena) Ethan's wife and Mattie's cousin. She is a hypochondriac, constantly suffering from a variety of physical ailments. She is a cold, unhappy, domineering woman who whines and complains incessantly. After Ethan and Mattie's sledding accident, she cares for them and runs the household.
Mattie (Matt) Silver Zeena's cousin. She joins the Frome household to work as a housekeeper and aide to Zeena. She is a sensitive, cheerful, and understanding person who falls in love with Ethan. After the sledding accident with Ethan, she becomes completely handicapped and as ill-tempered as Zeena.
The Narrator An engineer working on a job at the power-house at Corbury Junction. He rents a room in Starkfield from Mrs. Ned Hale, and hires Ethan Frome to transport him to and from the train station. The Narrator relates the "frame story" (the prologue and epilogue).
Harmon Gow A retired stagecoach driver and resident of Starkfield. He provides The Narrator with information about Ethan Frome's life.
Mrs. Ned Hale (Ruth Varnum) A middle-aged widow. She lives with her mother in the family mansion. Mrs. Hale had been a close friend to Mattie before the sledding accident. She visits Mattie and Zeena twice a year. She talks to The Narrator about Ethan, Zeena, and Mattie.
Andrew Hale Ned Hale's father. He owns a construction company in Starkfield. He gives the appearance of having money although he is usually behind on his bills. Ethan asks him for a fifty-dollar advance on a load of lumber and he refuses.
Ned Hale Andrew Hale's oldest son. He marries Ruth Varnum, but is dead by the time The Narrator comes to town.
Mrs. Andrew Hale Andrew Hale's wife and Ned Hale's mother. She sympathizes with Ethan about how difficult his life has been.
Denis Eady A wealthy Irishman who inherited his father's grocery store. He is also the proprietor of a livery stable in Starkfield. He courts Mattie.
Jotham Powell A hired hand at the Frome farm.
Widow Homan Storeowner. She sells glue to Ethan.
Aunt Martha Pierce Zeena's aunt. When Zeena goes to Bettsbridge to see Dr. Buck, she stays with Aunt Martha.
Dr. Buck The doctor Zeena sees in Bettsbridge. He tells her that she has "complications" and advises her not to do any housework.
Aunt Philura Maple Zeena's aunt. The red glass pickle dish was her wedding present to Ethan and Zeena.
Daniel Byrne The Fromes' neighbor. He takes Mattie's trunk to the train station.