David Copperfield He is the central character in the novel and tells the story of his life from birth to adulthood. David is a sensitive youth who first suffers under the cruel Murdstones and then is sent away to work in a wine warehouse. David first marries Dora Spenlow, an empty-headed young girl; afterward, he realizes how incompatible they really are. When Dora dies, he marries Agnes Wickfield and by the novel's end, he has matured into a successful writer and adult.
Clara Copperfield David's mother. She is an attractive, tender person, but impractical and emotional and easily taken in by Mr. Murdstone, who marries her because he is interested in her annuity.
Clara Peggotty The Copperfields' housekeeper, who also acts as David's nurse. She is a woman of intense loyalty and is David's only companion after his mother's death. Peggotty marries Barkis, the cart-driver, and continues throughout the novel to be David's friend.
Edward Murdstone David's stepfather. A dark, handsome man who cruelly beats David and slowly drives David's mother to an early death.
Jane Murdstone Mr. Murdstone's sister. She runs the Copperfield household and incessantly harasses David.
Mr. Barkis The driver of the horse-cart that travels between Yarmouth and David's home, He is a shy, quiet man who uses David as a messenger in his courtship of Peggotty.
Mr. Chillip The doctor who delivers David. He is an exceedingly mildmannered, frightened little man who is especially afraid of David's aunt, Betsey Trotwood.
Daniel Peggotty Clara Peggotty's brother and a Yarmouth fisherman. He is a warm-hearted man whose house is a refuge for anyone who needs help.
Ham Peggotty Mr. Peggotty's orphaned nephew. Ham, like his uncle, is a considerate, kindly person. He is in love with Em'ly and waits patiently for her after she runs away. He finally dies in an attempt to save Steerforth, Em'ly's seducer.
Little Em'ly Mr. Peggotty's orphaned niece. She is David's childhood sweetheart, but becomes engaged to Ham and later runs away with Steerforth. She is a quiet, compassionate young girl who wants to become a "lady," a desire that leads to unhappiness.
Mrs. Gummidge The widow of Mr. Peggotty's partner. She constantly complains about her hardships, but when Em'ly runs away, she changes into a helpful, inspiring confidante of Mr. Peggotty.
Charles Mell A schoolmaster at the Salem House boarding school. A gentle friend and teacher of David.
Mr. Creakle The sadistic headmaster of the Salem House School. He is a fiery-faced man who enjoys flogging the boys with a cane. He later becomes a prison magistrate.
Mr. Tungay The assistant and cruel companion of Mr. Creakle. He has a wooden leg and repeats everything that Creakle says.
James Steerforth A spoiled young man whom David admires. He has a surface polish and the good manners that deceive people who do not know him. His true selfishness is shown when he deserts Em'ly, leaving her with his servant, Littimer. He is killed in a storm off Yarmouth along with Ham, who tries to save him.
Tommy Traddles David's friend. Of all the boys at the Salem House School, Traddies receives the most punishment. He is a good-natured, loyal friend to both David and Mr. Micawber. Traddles is persistent, and this quality helps him rise from his humble background to become a judge.
Wilkins Micawber A constantly impoverished, but always optimistic, gentleman who boards David during his stay in London. He is a broad comic character with a passion for writing flowery letters and uttering grandiloquent speeches. He finally accompanies Mr. Peggotty to Australia, where he becomes a successful magistrate.
Emma Micawber Mr. Micawber's long-suffering wife. She stands by her husband through all his hardships, even joining him in debtors' prison.
Betsey Trotwood David's great-aunt. She is unhappy that David was born a boy instead of a girl, but later she acts as his guardian and provider during his early years of schooling. Her formal, often brisk, nature is deceiving; she is basically a sympathetic person.
Richard Babley (Mr. Dick) A lovable simpleton cared for by Betsey Trotwood. He is engaged in writing a long manuscript that he uses to paper a huge kite. Mr. Dick is devoted to David's aunt and becomes a great friend of David's.
Uriah Heep A repulsive, scheming young man who attempts to marry Agnes Wickfield and gain control of her father's law practice. He pretends to be humble and uses this as a means to gain vindictive revenge on people he believes have snubbed him. He is exposed by Mr. Micawber and ends up in prison.
Mr. Wickfield A solicitor and the widowed father of Agnes Wickfield. He is a proud man, but his excessive drinking allows Uriah Heep to take advantage of him.
Agnes Wickfield The daughter of Mr. Wickfield; David's second wife. She is a dutiful companion and housekeeper to her father and a sisterly friend to David while he stays at the Wickfield house. She proves to be a perfect wife and an inspiration to David in his writing.
Dr. Strong The headmaster of the school which David attends in Canterbury. He is a scholarly, trusting gentleman who is married to a girl much younger than himself. Although his wife is accused of infidelity, he maintains his faith in her.
Annie Strong Dr. Strong's youthful wife. She is a beautiful, affectionate girl whose family exploits her husband.
Jack Maldon Annie Strong's cousin. He is a lazy, vain young man who tries to compromise Mrs. Strong, but is repulsed.
Mrs. Markleham Annie Strong's mother. A forceful, selfish woman, she always takes Jack Maldon's part and unwittingly helps cause the misunderstanding between her daughter and Dr. Strong.
Mrs. Steerforth James Steerforth's mother. A possessive woman who has spoiled her son by over-indulgence and a smothering affection; she lapses into a semi-invalid state when she hears of her son's death.
Rosa Dartle Mrs. Steerforth's companion. She is a neurotic, quick-tempered young woman with a consuming love for Steerforth.
Littimer Steerforth's personal manservant. He is a formal, haughty person who has an air of respectability, yet he aids Steerforth in his seduction of Em'ly. He is trapped by Miss Mowcher and is sent to Creakle's prison.
Miss Mowcher A middle-aged dwarf who is a hairdresser for wealthy families. She is upset when she realizes that she was duped into helping Steerforth run off with Em'ly, and is instrumental in the capture of Littimer, who aided Steerforth.
Martha Endell Em'ly's friend. She is a suffering woman who is forced to go to London to hide her shame. Martha redeems herself by saving Em'ly from a similar life and finds happiness in her own life after she arrives in Australia.
Mr. Spenlow A proctor and partner in a law firm in Doctor's Commons. He is a pompous, aristocratic lawyer who objects to David's plans to marry his daughter.
Dora Spenlow David's first wife. She is an impractical, empty-headed girl who cannot cook or manage a household. Although she is a poor selection as a wife, David is so taken by her childlike beauty that he overlooks her faults and marries her. Their marriage is a comedy of mismanagement until Dora dies, leaving David free to marry the domestically perfect Agnes.
Mr. Omer The Yarmouth undertaker and dealer in funeral clothes.
Minnie Omer Mr. Omer's daughter and Em'ly's working companion.
Joram Minnie Omer's sweetheart and eventually her husband, and finally, Mr. Omer's business partner.
Mr. Quinion A business associate of Mr. Murdstone.
Janet Betsey Trotwood's housekeeper. She assists Miss Trotwood in chasing donkey riders off the lawn.
Mr. Jorkins Mr. Spenlow's seldom-seen partner. He is reputed to be a strict businessman, but he is really a mild-mannered individual whose name is used to frighten new employees.
Julia Mills Dora's girl friend. She is a romantic person who advises David in his courtship with Dora.
Mrs. Crupp David's landlady. She is a lazy woman who drinks David's brandy and feuds with Aunt Betsey.
Sophy Crewler Traddies' sweetheart. A patient girl from a large family, she marries Traddies and assists him in his work as a lawyer.