- Jason Compson III – father of the Compson family, a lawyer who attended the University of the South: a nihilistic thinker and alcoholic, with cynical opinions that torment his son, Quentin. He also narrates several chapters of Absalom, Absalom!.
- Caroline Bascomb Compson – wife of Jason Compson III: a self-absorbed neurotic who has never shown affection for any of her children except Jason, whom she seems to like only because he takes after her side of the family. In her old age she has become an abusive hypochondriac.
- Quentin Compson III – the oldest Compson child: passionate and neurotic, he commits suicide as the tragic culmination of the damaging influence of his father's nihilistic philosophy and his inability to cope with his sister's sexual promiscuity. He is also a character in Absalom, Absalom!. The bridge over the Charles River, where he commits suicide in the novel, bears a plaque to commemorate the character's life and death.
- Candace "Caddy" Compson – the second Compson child, strong-willed yet caring. Benjy's only real caregiver and Quentin's best friend. According to Faulkner, the true hero of the novel. Caddy never develops a voice, but rather allows her brothers' emotions towards her to develop her character.
- Jason Compson IV – the bitter, racist third child who is troubled by monetary debt and sexual frustration. He works at a farming goods store owned by a man named Earl and becomes head of the household in 1912. Has been embezzling Miss Quentin's support payments for years.
- Benjamin (nicknamed Benjy, born Maury) Compson – fourth child, whose mental disability is a constant source of shame and grief for his family, especially his mother, who insisted on his name change to Benjamin. Caddy is the only family member who shows any genuine love towards him. Luster, albeit begrudgingly, shows care for him occasionally, but usually out of obligation. Has an almost animal-like "sixth sense" about people, as he was able to tell that Caddy had lost her virginity just from her smell.The model for Benjy's character may have had its beginning in the 1925 New Orleans Times Picayune sketch by Faulkner entitled "The Kingdom of God".
- Dilsey Gibson – the matriarch of the servant family, which includes her three children—Versh, Frony, and T.P.—and her grandchild Luster (Frony's son); they serve as Benjamin's caretakers throughout his life. An observer of the Compson family's destruction.
- Miss Quentin Compson – daughter of Caddy who goes to live with the Compsons under Jason IV's care when Herbert divorces Caddy. She is very wild and promiscuous, and eventually runs away from home. Often referred to as Quentin II or Miss Quentin by readers to distinguish her from her uncle, for whom she was named.
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