Tess (Teresa) Durbeyfield The main character and heroine of the novel. She is beautiful and irresistible to men. She is also young, innocent, and uneducated — unaware that the world is rife with lust, cruelty, and vanity.
Alec d'Urberville Heir to d'Urberville fortune who has Tess brought to The Slopes with the hope of seducing her. He is the consummate playboy, who knows no bounds to debauch women. He ruins Tess and does not know that she has had his child until much later. He convinces Tess that Angel, her husband, will not return from Brazil, and he finally pays for his deceit with his life.
Angel Clare Youngest son of Parson Clare of Emminster, who becomes Tess' husband. After the wedding, when he finally learns of Tess' past with Alec and her son Sorrow, he leaves her and spends the next year in Brazil. Angel eventually returns to England to reclaim Tess but finds her with Alec. After Alec's murder, Angel remains with Tess until her arrest and agrees to take Liza Lu as his wife after Tess meets her fate on the gallows.
John Durbeyfield Tess' father. He is a haggler/higgler, a middleman who buys vegetables and poultry from wholesalers to sell to retailers. Uneducated and poor, he is shiftless, drinks to excess, and is not a good provider for his family, leaving them destitute when he dies.
Joan Durbeyfield Tess' mother who does her best to raise her seven children. It is Joan's plan to sent Tess to "claim kin" with the d'Urbervilles. Joan fails to warn Tess of the desires of men and the meaning of love.
Eliza-Louise (Liza Lu) Liza Lu is the second Durbeyfield child; she is twelve years old when the novel begins and appears in only a few chapters. In the end, Liza Lu and Angel are united, as Tess had asked, when Tess dies.
Abraham, Hope, and Modesty Durbeyfield The other Durbeyfield children; Tess' younger siblings.
Sorrow Durbeyfield/d'Urberville Tess' child with Alec d'Urberville, who dies in infancy.
Parson and Mrs. Clare Angel's parents.
Cuthbert and Felix Clare Angel's brothers.
Parson Tringham The minister who tells John Durbeyfield of his lineage.
Mrs. d'Urberville Alec's mother, a sixty-year-old widow who owns The Slopes.
Mercy Chant The woman Angel's family wanted him to marry; she eventually marries Cuthbert Clare.
Mr. Richard Crick Dairy farmer who owns Talbothays Dairy. He is kind to Tess and Angel.
Izz Huett, Marian, and Retty Priddle Tess' friends at Talbothays and Flintcomb-Ash. All are also in love with Angel.
Farmer Groby Farmer in charge of Flintcomb-Ash, the second farm where Tess works. He is very hard and demanding.
Mrs. Brooks Innkeeper at Sandbourne for The Herons, where Alec is murdered.