C. C. Baxter is the protagonist of the film. At the start he is a low-level office worker who seems to have a rather lighthearted and happy attitude, but is fundamentally lonely. He spends much of his time alone, not only because he has a rather low-level job, but also because he loans out his apartments to his superiors, so often has to spend evenings at the office or killing time somewhere. His greatest pleasure is to sit on his couch and eat a frozen pizza while watching television. When his lending of the apartment begins to get him some promotions at work, he becomes more confident and proactive. When his office crush, Fran, tries to kill herself at his apartment, he eagerly steps in as her caretaker, and wants to help her recover not only from the physical trauma of the event, but also from the emotional toll that her affair has taken. While Baxter is plucky, funny, and charming, he is fundamentally passive, and rarely makes decisions for himself. It is not until the end, when he quits his job over Sheldrake's unjust treatment of Fran, that Baxter exhibits his true verve.
Fran Kubelik is the plucky, idiosyncratic, and dreamy elevator girl at the office. When we first meet her, she is wearing a flower on her lapel, a quirky touch in the boring office. She also knows everyone in the office by name. She is Baxter's work crush as well as Sheldrake's mistress. As we see in her experience with Sheldrake and as she says herself, she tends to choose men who don't treat her very well. As charming and plucky as she is, she is also very easily hurt and very dramatic in her feelings, resorting to suicide when she is rejected by the man who treats her poorly. Fran eventually comes to realize that Sheldrake is a louse and leaves him on New Years' Eve to go spend the evening with Baxter.
Sheldrake is one of the most important executives at the company. He is a suave, cool, and charming man whose ability to compartmentalize and separate the different portions of his life is almost sociopathic in its lack of feeling. He treats Fran horribly, and indeed has carried on a string of affairs with girls at the office to whom he promises the moon, but to whom he delivers nothing. He is, in a word, a schmuck.
Miss Olsen is Mr. Sheldrake’s secretary and former mistress. Trying to look out for Fran, she tells her about Sheldrake's philandering. When Sheldrake fires her for outing him, she calls his wife and tells her everything.
Dr. Dreyfuss is Baxter's neighbor, and because of all the couples using Baxter's apartment to party and carry on affairs, he cannot help but assume that Baxter is a rather unfeeling playboy. He does not exactly judge Baxter for his sexual indiscretions, but he does encourage Baxter to become a "mensch," and stop living such a fast-paced life. He is especially helpful when it comes to taking care of Fran after she has overdosed in his apartment.
Mr. Kirkeby is an executive at the office who is using Baxter's apartment to carry on an affair with an operator named Sylvia. He has a crush on Fran, but has never been able to score a date with her.
Another executive who uses Baxter's apartment to have affairs.
A ditzy telephone operator from the office with whom Kirkeby is having an affair.
A ridiculous woman whom Baxter takes home on Christmas Eve. She tells him that her husband has been imprisoned in Cuba. She is very offended when Baxter ushers her out the door after finding Fran passed out in his bed.
Dr. Dreyfuss' wife, who disapproves of what she thinks is Baxter's sleeping around. She urges Fran to eat on the morning following her overdose, and encourages her to take better care of herself.
The Apartment Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Apartment is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.