Brigida: Brigida is the young daughter of Maria and the priest. She is unwilling to express any love for her father when he visits the village.
The Boy: The unnamed boy is the son of the unnamed woman. He shows little interest in the story she reads to him, but his interest is awakened by the news of the death of the real priest.
Captain Fellows: Captain Fellows works on a banana plantation. He is a happy man but is displeased when he finds that the priest has taken refuge in his barn.
Coral Fellows: Coral Fellows is the thirteen-year-old daughter of Captain and Mrs. Fellows. She befriends the fugitive priest and offers to look after him if he returns to the plantation to hide.
Mrs. Fellows: Mrs. Fellows is the wife of Captain Fellows. She is neurotic and fearful, and also may be sick with fever. She and her husband make plans to return home to England.
The Gringo: The gringo, whose name is James Calver, is an American who is wanted for murder and bank robbery. He dies after a shoot-out with soldiers.
Padre José: Padre José is a priest who obeyed the government’s instructions that priests should marry. He is dominated by his wife and has lost his self-respect. He refuses to do any priestly duties, even when people beg him to, because he fears getting into trouble with the authorities.
Juan: Juan is a character in the story read to her family by the woman. Juan is a young Mexican man who enters the priesthood, lives a pious life and faces with great courage his death by firing squad.
The Lehrs: Mr. Lehr, a widower, and his sister Miss Lehr are an elderly couple who allow the priest to stay with them after he crosses the state border. Mr. Lehr left Germany as a boy to avoid military service. Both he and his sister are Lutherans and have little sympathy for Catholicism, although they treat the priest with kindness.
The Lieutenant: The lieutenant is the chief adversary of the priest. He hates the church because he thinks it is corrupt, and he pursues the priest ruthlessly. He takes hostages from the villages and kills them when he feels it is necessary. However, the lieutenant is also idealistic and believes in radical social reform that would end poverty and provide education for everyone. He is capable of acts of personal kindness, as when he gave the priest (whom he believes to be a destitute drunkard) money on leaving the jail.
Maria: Maria is the mother of Brigida, the priest’s daughter. She helps the priest evade the police when they come to her village looking for him.
The Mestizo: The mestizo is the half-Indian peasant who insists on guiding the priest to Carmen. The priest knows that the mestizo will at some point hand him over to the authorities. The mestizo encounters the priest again in the prison, but prefers to wait for the right moment to betray him, which he does when leading him to the dying American.
The Chief of Police: The Chief of Police is mostly concerned with playing billiards and assuaging his own toothache. He is willing to delegate responsibility for capturing the priest to the lieutenant.
The Priest: The priest is the main character in the novel. Like the lieutenant, he is unnamed. He is on the run from the authorities, who will kill him if they catch him. The priest is not the finest example of his profession. He is a “whisky priest,” one who drinks too much. He also fathered a child, Brigida, by Maria, a village woman with whom he had a brief affair. The priest appears in his younger days (at least in his own estimation) to have been a smug and self-satisfied man. Now he is a fugitive, he continually wallows in guilt about his own mistakes and sins. However, on the positive side, he does continue to perform his priestly functions whenever possible (in contrast to Padre José), and it is his determination to attend to the spiritual needs of a dying man that leads to his eventual capture and death.
Mr. Tench: Mr. Tench is a dissatisfied English dentist who longs to return from Mexico to England. He befriends the priest, whom he meets at the quayside, and later witnesses his death.
The Woman: The unnamed woman reads to her children the story of Juan and his martyrdom. The Catholic faith is important to her and she wants her children to take an interest in it.