Charles-Denis-Bartholom Bovary. A former army surgeon’s aide whose grand romantic conception of life seems anachronistic to many. Preferring ease to labor he is a heavy drinker and womanizer. He dies during the time that Emma is conducting her affair with Lon.
Charles Bovary. An officier de Sant [licensed to practice medicine without an M.D. degree] who marries Emma. He is kindhearted and genuinely loves his wife but his lack of ambition and dearth of emotion frustrates her. He is distraught by her death and dies of a broken heart after learning of her extra-marital affairs.
Madame Bovary (elder). Charles’ mother. She arranges for his education and his first marriage to the widow Dubuc. She and Emma quarrel often and her son’s preference for his wife, even after Emma’s death, drives a wedge between the mother and son.
Emma Bovary. The protagonist of the novel. As a girl she is schooled in a Catholic convent where she is taken with the grandeur of religious symbols but has little appreciation with its discipline. She is enchanted by romantic novels and images and uses the heroes and heroines in these stories as models for her own life. Seeking some sort of change from her father’s farm she marries Charles Bovary but soon regrets the decision when she perceives her husband’s lack of ambition and emotion. Following a ball at a local aristocrat’s estate she is convinced that her marriage is akin to a prison that prevents her from realizing her true self. To compensate she conducts two extra-marital affairs, first with Rodolphe and later with Lon, and purchases goods and luxury items beyond her means. Following her disillusionment with Lon and facing financial ruin she chooses to take her own life by swallowing arsenic rather than ask for Charles’ forgiveness.
Heloise Bovary nee Dubuc. Charles’ first wife (arranged by his mother) who was supposed to have a good income. She is controlling and jealous but when her notary absconds with her savings and the rest of her wealth turns out to be fictitious Charles stands by her. Shortly afterward, however, she dies.
Monsieur Roulaut. Emma’s father. Charles and Emma first meet when Charles travels to his farm to set his broken leg. He is a simple and likable farmer who is genuine grief-stricken when he learns of his daughter’s demise.
Madame Lefranois. The proprietress of the Lion d’Or Hotel in Yonville.
Monsieur Homais. The pharmacist of Yonville who befriends the Bovary’s in order to mask his own illicit medical practice. He is loquacious and delivers long discourses on scientific issues of which he has a cursory understanding. His enlightened agnosticism leads him to quarrel often with the abb, Monsieur Bournisien, and his egoism drives him to seek a cross of the Legion of Honor from the government. He succeeds in not only obtaining the award but as Charles Bovary’s fortunes decline Monsieur Homais prosperity increases.
Monsieur Binet the tax collector for Yonville. He is a silent man whose chief hobby is the manufacture of wooden napkin rings, which is refuses to sell, on his own lathe.
Justin a distant relation of the Monsieur Homais whom the latter keeps as a kind of understudy and servant. He suffers nearly constant criticism from the pharmacist. He unwittingly provides Emma with the arsenic she uses to kill herself. His secret love of Emma Bovary drives him to intense guilt and he weeps at her grave the night after she is buried. Later he flees Yonville to work in Rouen.
Monsieur Lon Dupuis. A clerk in Yonville with romantic sensibilities. He falls in love with Emma but lacks the courage to tell her. As such, they are close but platonic friends until he leaves for Paris to study law. At the opera in Rouen, however, they are reunited and Lon, emboldened by his city experience, successfully secuces her. Emma’s need to be desired, however, eclipses the clerk’s own passion and increasingly he resents her demands. He is unable to find her money to relieve her debts and after her death he grows out of his romantic youth and marries an heiress.
Flicit. The Bovary’s young maid who, after Emma’s death, elopes with the notary’s manservant.
Berthe Bovary. Emma and Charles’ daughter who following her parent’s deaths ends up with a spinster aunt who puts her to work in a flax mill.
Monsieur Rodolphe Boulanger a wealthy bachelor who purchases an estate, La Huchette, near Yonville. He successfully seduces Emma and conducts a long affair with her. Her increasing appetite for devotion begins to wear on him, however, and instead of fleeing the country with her as he promised, he leaves the region by himself. Later, he refuses to lend her money.
Monsieur Lheureux the merchant in Yonville whose aggressive marketing of his wares ensnares Emma in a web of debt that ultimately proves to be her undoing.
Monsieur Bournisien The abb of Yonville whose practical understanding of religion fails to satisfy Emma’s need for a spiritual counselor. He and Monsieur Homais engage in vigorous debates concerning the roles of religion and science.
The Blind Beggar a brash man afflicted with a scrofulous disease that has eaten away his eyelids and left him bind with open sores in place of eyes. He accosts travelers on the road outside of Rouen with bawdy songs and demands for money. Emma is terrified of him but gives him her last bit of money. His song is the last thing Emma hears before she dies. Homais promises to cure him but when he fails he has the man locked in an asylum.
Madame Rollet the wetnurse who cares for Berthe Bovary when she is an infant. She is the conduit for letters from Lon during he and Emma’s affair and it is to her house that Emma flees when nobody in town will lend her money to stave off the creditors.
Hippolyte the lame stable boy at the Lion d’Or Hotel whose clubfoot Charles tries but fails to cure. As a result his leg is amputated and he uses a wooden leg.
Monsieur Guillaumin the notary of Yonville who refuses Emma money after she refuses his sexual advances.