- James Stevens (Mr Stevens) – the narrator, an English butler who serves at Darlington Hall. He is a devoted butler with high standards and particularly concerned with dignity. This is exemplified by the fact that the reader never learns his first name.
- Miss Kenton – housekeeper at Darlington Hall, afterwards married as Mrs Benn
- Lord Darlington – the owner of Darlington Hall, whose failed efforts toward talks between English and German diplomats caused his political and social decline
- William Stevens (Mr Stevens senior) – the 72-year-old father of butler Stevens (the narrator), serving as under-butler; Stevens senior suffers a severe stroke during a conference at Darlington Hall. His son was divided between serving and helping.
- Senator Lewis – An American senator who criticises Lord Darlington as being an "amateur" in politics.
- Mr Farraday – the new American employer of Stevens
- Young Mr Cardinal – a journalist; he is the son of one of Lord Darlington's closest friends and is killed in Belgium during the Second World War
- Dupont – a high-ranking French politician who attends Darlington's conference
On his motoring trip, Stevens briefly comes into contact with several other characters. They are mirrors to Stevens and show the reader different facets of his character; they are also all kind and try to help him. Two in particular, Dr. Carlisle and Harry Smith, highlight themes in the book.