Janie Sixteen-year-old Janie Crawford dreams of love and wonders whether love will come with marriage. Twenty-four years and three marriages later, Janie has experienced both love and personal growth.
Nanny Born into slavery on a plantation near Savannah, she bears Leafy, her white master's child. Disappointed with this child, Nanny, who has no given name, dotes on her granddaughter Janie.
Mrs. Washburn Nanny's employer and benefactor.
Logan Killicks Janie's first husband. He is an older man who can offer her protection and a 60-acre potato farm.
Joe Starks The mayor of Eatonville and Janie's second husband. He is a proud, ambitious, self-centered man who has the power to get other people to do what he wants. The town of Eatonville is a monument to Joe Starks, and Janie is one of his prized possessions.
Vergible "Tea Cake" Woods Fun-loving, guitar-playing, hard-working, Tea Cake is Janie's third husband and the fulfillment of her dreams of love.
Pheoby Watson As Janie's best friend and confidante, Pheoby can be trusted to listen to Janie's story and tell the townsfolk as much or as little of it as she wishes. In either case, Janie knows that Pheoby will be honest. [Note: Hurston spells Pheoby's name in a most unusual way. Usually, the name is spelled P-h-o-e-b-y. When taking a test or writing a paper about this novel, be sure to double-check the spelling of this character's name.]
Sam Watson Pheoby's husband and a loyal supporter of Janie. He has little patience with the porch sitters.
Mrs. Turner A talkative, color- and class-conscious restaurant owner in the Everglades. Her bigotry contrasts with Janie's open heart and mind.
The Porch Sitters A group of men and a few women who sit on the porches of their homes, as well as on the porch of Joe Starks' crossroads store, and diligently mind everyone else's business, especially Janie's. The women who gossip about Janie as she trudges into the town are Pearl Stone, Mrs. Sumpkins, and Lulu Moss. Some of the men have minor speaking roles in this story, but for the most part, they simply represent the community, Joe and Janie's town. Among them are Lee Coker, Guv'nor Amos Hicks, Tony Taylor, Lige Moss, Hambo, Pearson, Brother Davis (the preacher), Sim Jones, Oscar Scott, Jeff Bruce, Matt Bonner, Walter Thomas, and Sam Watson. Hezekiah Potts helps Janie in the store after Joe's death.
The Workers in the Muck These men and women are the community of migrant laborers in the bean fields of the Everglades; Janie accepts them because they are Tea Cake's friends and, therefore, hers. They spend their spare time having fun rather than porch sitting and gossiping. Most of them are identified by colorful nicknames: Ed Dockery, Sop-de-Bottom, Stew Beef, Coodemay, 'Lias, Bootnyny, Motor Boat, Sterrett, and Muck-Boy. Mrs. Turner and her husband are not farm workers.
Nunkie A young girl foolish enough to go after Tea Cake.