- Walter Faber is the protagonist of Homo Faber. He is an engineer and technologist who works for UNESCO. Born and educated in Switzerland, he now lives in an apartment in New York City, but travels extensively for work throughout Europe and South America. Walter has never been married.
- Sabeth, or Elisabeth, is the 20-year-old daughter of Walter and Hanna. Born in Switzerland, she believes that Joachim is her father. She speaks English, German, and French.
- Hanna Piper (née Landsberg) is the German-born half-Jewish mother of Sabeth. Formerly Walter's lover, she married Joachim, and then later married Herr Piper. She works at an art institute in Athens, Greece.
- Joachim Henke was Walter's German born friend, who was studying to be a doctor. He married Hanna, but they separated after she refused to have any more children with him. Sabeth believes that he is her father. After separating from Hanna, Joachim joined the German army and fought in World War II; Hanna and Sabeth never saw him again. Decades later, he moved to Guatemala to run a tobacco plantation. A few weeks after arriving, he committed suicide.
- Herbert Henke is Joachim's brother, who meets Walter on a plane. He is employed by the same company that sent Joachim to Guatemala.
- Ivy is Walter's married American mistress, who comes to New York once a week to see Walter and her psychiatrist.
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