- Mr. Stevens, the narrator, an English butler who serves at Darlington Hall; a devoted man with high standards who is particularly concerned with dignity (exemplified by the fact that the reader never learns his first name)
- Miss Kenton, the housekeeper at Darlington Hall, later married as Mrs. Benn; an extremely capable and dignified servant who helps Mr. Stevens manage Darlington Hall. As time passes, she and Mr. Stevens develop a long-lasting bond
- Lord Darlington, the owner of Darlington Hall; a conference he holds between high-ranking diplomats is ultimately a failed effort toward appeasement talks between English and German powers; this causes his political and social decline
- William Stevens (Mr. Stevens senior), the 75-year-old father of Mr. Stevens, serving as under-butler; Stevens senior suffers a severe stroke during the conference at Darlington Hall; his son was divided between serving and helping him
- Senator Lewis, an American senator who criticises Lord Darlington as being an "amateur" in politics
- Young Mr. Cardinal, the son of one of Lord Darlington's closest friends and a journalist, he is killed in Belgium during the Second World War
- M. Dupont, a high-ranking French politician who attends Lord Darlington's conference
On his motoring trip, Stevens briefly comes into contact with several other characters. They are mirrors to Stevens and show the reader different facets of his character; they are also all kind and try to help him. Two in particular, Dr. Carlisle and Harry Smith, highlight themes in the book.