- Ryuji Tsukazaki
Ryuji Tsukazaki is a sailor and Fusako Kuroda's lover. Through out the book it is shown that Ryuji (also known as the sailor) sees himself destined for glory though at that point he is not sure as to what kind of glory he will receive. Ryuji falls in love with Fusako and then later he gets married to her becoming a father figure to her son Noboru. This new love and the failure of achieving glory in the presence of the sea makes him determine to retire from the sea, this out raging Noboru and causing him to take action.
- Noboru Kuroda:
Noboru is a thirteen-year boy and the son of Fusako. He is the protagonist of this novel. He is influenced by his friends, especially the chief who thinks “..society is basically meaningless, a Roman mixed bath.” They have nihilistic view of the world and Noboru, after killing the innocent cat thinks murder would “fill those gaping caves” and he and his gang can achieve “real power over existence.”
Although he thinks there is little meaning in life, he is fascinated with the strength and vastness of the sea as he thinks it has “internal order of life.” Chief also explains him that the sea is “more permissible than any of the few other permissible things.” Therefore he idealises Ryuji who lives and works in the ship. He is delighted when he sees his mother and the sailor are in love, saying “...Ryuji was perfect. So was his mother.”
However, he becomes extremely disappointed when he found out that the sailor was different from what he thought, “...But he hadn’t said anything of the kind. Instead he had offered his ridiculous explanation.” Eventually when Ryuji gives up his life as a sailor for Fusako and Noboru and destroyed the heroic image that Noboru had, Noboru and his gang punish him for giving up his glory.
- Fusako Kuroda:
- The Chief:
A thirteen year old boy, known only as “The Chief” to his gang, who Noboru is part of, leads an investigation to understand existence through analysis and criticism of human nature, social structure and life. “The Chief” is arrogant and dispassionate, but is also precocious. His hatred towards the normality of life has led him to committing extreme acts, namely his butchering and subsequent dissection of a cat.