The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil Character List

Kitty Fane

A beautiful high-society woman from London. Kitty values social appearance and artifice, and was trained by her mother to make a brilliant marriage. When no acceptable suitor was forthcoming, she deigned to marry Water Fane, an introverted scientist. Disgusted with this marriage, Kitty has an affair with the handsome Charles Townsend. When Walter discovers this, he forces Kitty to accompany him to a cholera epidemic in central China.

Walter Fane

The government bacteriologist in the British colony of Hong Kong. Walter is a reserved and shy man, but he loves Kitty deeply despite their obvious incompatibility. He is so hurt when he discovers her infidelities that he willingly goes to work in the midst of a cholera epidemic in southern China.

Charles Townsend

The Assistant Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong. He is a man in his forties, and is quite vain and shallow. He has an affair with Kitty Fane, and reacts indifferently when her husband finds out.

Mrs. Garstin

Kitty's mother. She is a selfish, grasping, controlling woman, who uses her husband relentlessly to advance herself socially. She decides that her daughters' marriages will also serve to enhance her social position, whether they like it or not.

Mr. Garstin

Kitty's father. He is a small, wizened man, who is relentlessly hounded by his wife. After her death, he is appointed Chief Justice of the Bahamas.

Dorothy Townsend

Charles' wife. Kitty finds her frumpy and unattractive, but she is deeply devoted to her husband and he is quite attached to her.


Deputy Commissioner of Customs in Mei-tan-fu. He is a short rather ugly man, but he is funny, insightful, and generally good company. He lives with a Manchu woman who loves him passionately. He enjoys drinking whiskey.

Mother Superior

Head of the convent in Mei-tan-fu. She was originally a noblewoman, and still exercises a great deal of command. She is remarkable for her emotional depth, wisdom, and peace.

Sister St. Joseph

A nun at the convent in Mei-tan-fu. She is playful and good-natured, though she has the same peaceful equanimity as the rest of the nuns.

Colonel Yü

The military leader of the forces at Mei-tan-fu. He is deeply attached to Walter, and weeps when he dies.

Manchu Woman

The daughter of a noble Manchu family, she fell in love with Waddington when he saved her life during the revolution. She is elegant and exotic, and deeply in love with the Englishman.


Kitty's sister. She is homely compared to her sister, though she manages to make an excellent marriage with a baron's son.