Lucy Snowe: The narrator and main character of Villette. A quiet, self-reliant, intelligent, 23-year-old woman. Lucy has, as Miss Ginevra Fanshawe asserts, "no attractive accomplishments – no beauty" as Lucy does her best not to stand out or form attachments. Although she seems to lack any living relatives, she is the god-daughter of Mrs. Bretton.
Though usually reserved and emotionally self-controlled, Lucy has strong feelings and affections for those whom she really values. She even sincerely cares for the giddy Ginevra, albeit in a blunt, curmudgeonly fashion. She is a firm Protestant and denounces Roman Catholicism as false ("God is not with Rome"). She falls in love with M. Emanuel and consents to marry him someday. With his help Lucy leaves Mme Beck's and establishes her own school.
M. Paul Emanuel: An irascible, autocratic professor at Mme. Beck's pensionnat. He is also a relative of Mme. Beck. Although he insults Lucy frequently, Lucy comes to relish his good qualities. He is generous; he delights in giving Lucy secret presents. He is kind and magnanimous, as is shown by his supporting and sheltering the elderly grandmother of his dead fiancée, Justine Marie, together with his former tutor (Pére Silas) and a servant. He is a devout Catholic and tries to convert Lucy, a Protestant, to Catholicism but fails. As he grows closer to Lucy and falls in love with her everyone in his life attempts to keep them apart, and he is eventually banished to a family-owned plantation in Guadeloupe for three years. At the end of the novel, it is strongly hinted that he dies in a shipwreck attempting to return to Belgium.
Dr. John Graham Bretton: A handsome young English gentleman who is a physician. He is the son of Lucy's godmother, Mrs. Bretton. He is described as "cheerful," "benignant," and "bland." Lucy, when young, showed no particular fondness for him. However, when they meet again ten years later, their cool friendship is more than rekindled, and Lucy secretly begins to cherish an affection for him. Graham does not return this affection, however, and calls her "quiet Lucy Snowe" and "a being inoffensive as a shadow." He has, at first, a passion for Ginevra Fanshawe, until her love of money and a sneer at Mrs. Bretton quenches his love at last. He then falls in love with Polly de Bassompierre. Lucy conquers her love for him and buries all his treasured letters to her, saying, "Good-night, Dr. John; you are good, you are beautiful but you are not mine. Good-night, and God bless you!" John and Polly eventually marry and live a happy life together.
Mrs. Bretton: Dr. John Graham Bretton's mother and Lucy's godmother. She is a widow and has "health without flaw, and her spirits of that tone and equality which are better than a fortune to the possessor." She is immensely proud of her son but is not above teasing him.
Polly Home/Countess Paulina Mary de Bassompierre: A 17-year-old English girl who is a cousin of Ginevra Fanshawe. She is first introduced to the story as a very young girl, who is called Polly. As a child, she was very fond of Graham Bretton. She grows to be a beautiful young lady who is delicate and intelligent. Upon meeting Graham again, their friendship develops into love, and they eventually marry. She is somewhat prideful. Lucy says of her, "She looked a mere doll," and describes her as shaped like "a model." She and Lucy are friends. Although Lucy is often pained by Polly's relationship with Graham, she looks upon their happiness without a grudge.
Mr. Home/Count de Bassompierre: Polly's father, who inherited his noble title within recent years. He is a sensitive and thoughtful man who loves his daughter. When he notices Polly's relationship with Graham, he has difficulty recognizing and accepting that his daughter is now a grown woman. He regards her as a mere child and calls her his "little treasure" or "little Polly." He at last relinquishes Polly to Graham, saying, "May God deal with you as you deal with her!" He lives to a ripe old age.
Ginevra Fanshawe: A beautiful but shallow and vain 18-year-old English girl with a light, careless temperament. She is an incorrigible coquette and has a relish for flirtation. Although related to the Homes/Bassonpierres her own family is not wealthy, and she expects others to finance her lavish tastes. Lucy meets her on a ship journeying to France. Ginevra is a student at Madame Beck's, and it is her passing remark, "I wish you would come to Madame Beck's; she has some marmots [Fr. "kids"] you might look after: she wants an English gouvernante, or was wanting one two months ago," which prompts Lucy to go to Villette. Despite Ginevra's faults, Lucy has a certain fondness for her. Ginevra thinks of Lucy as "caustic, ironic, and cynical," calling her "old lady," "dear crosspatch," and most frequently "Timon" (after a Greek misanthrope who lived during the 5th century BC). Ginevra uses Graham shamelessly until he loses interest in her. She eventually elopes with a man named Count Alfred de Hamal and keeps in touch with Lucy via letters.
Madame Beck: The owner and headmistress of the boarding school for girls where Lucy is employed. She is short and stout, but not uncomely. Her complexion is described as fresh. "She looked well, though a little bourgeois … ." She has good sense and is an excellent administrator, though that is because she spies on everyone and goes through their possessions frequently. Lucy says, "[S]he had no heart to be touched: it reminded her where she was impotent and dead." Lucy further describes her as "wise, firm, faithless; secret, crafty, passionless; watchful and inscrutable; acute and insensate — withal perfectly decorous — what more could be desired?" She seems attracted to Graham at first, but that dies away quickly. She then seeks to marry M. Paul Emanuel to keep him and his fortune under her thumb. She does all she can to keep Lucy and Paul apart, including conspiring with Pére Silas.
Rosine: The pretty but unprincipled portress at Madame Beck's boarding school. She is "smart, trim, and pert" and "not a bad sort of person," according to Lucy. She likes to be bribed.
Pére Silas: An elderly Catholic priest who makes it his mission, and later M. Emanuel's, to convert Lucy. He is the mentor of Paul Emanuel, and uses the latter's love of the late Justine Marie to manipulate him. He is instrumental in keeping M. Paul and Lucy apart.
Justine Marie: A deceased noviciate nun, the former love of Paul Emanuel. She had originally hoped to marry him, but her family's objections led her to join a convent. During her time at Mme Beck's, Lucy suspects she is being haunted by Justine's ghost.