- Amanda Wingfield
A faded Southern belle, abandoned by her husband, who is trying to raise her two children under harsh financial conditions. Amanda yearns for the comforts of her youth and also longs for her children to have the same comforts, but her devotion to them has made her – as she admits at one point – almost "hateful" towards them.
- Tom Wingfield
Amanda's son. Tom works at a shoe warehouse to support his family but is frustrated by his job and aspires to be a poet. He struggles to write, all the while being sleep-deprived and irritable. Yet, he escapes from reality through nightly excursions to the movies, but also to local bars. It is loosely implied that he is a closeted homosexual and his excursions might actually involve anonymous encounters with random men. Tom feels both obligated toward yet burdened by his family and longs to escape.
- Laura Wingfield
Amanda's daughter and Tom's older sister. A childhood illness has left her with a limp, and she has a mental fragility and an inferiority complex that have isolated her from the outside world. She has created a world of her own symbolized by her collection of glass figurines. The unicorn may represent Laura because it is unique and fragile.
- Jim O'Connor
An old high school acquaintance of Tom and Laura. Jim was a popular athlete and actor during his days at Soldan High School. Subsequent years have been less kind to Jim; however, and by the time of the play's action, he is working as a shipping clerk at the same shoe warehouse as Tom. His hope to shine again is conveyed by his study of public speaking and ideas of self-improvement that appear related to those of Dale Carnegie.
- Mr. Wingfield
Amanda's absentee husband, and Laura's and Tom's father. Mr. Wingfield was a handsome man, full of charm, who worked for a telephone company and eventually "fell in love with long distance," abandoning his family 16 years prior to the play's action. Although he does not appear onstage, Mr. Wingfield is frequently referred to by Amanda, and his picture is prominently displayed in the Wingfields' living room. This unseen character appears to incorporate elements of Williams' own father.