A Vernon Tull
Tull is the farmer who lives closest to the Bundrens. A thrifty, hardworking man, he is very successful as a farmer. He helps Cash build the coffin, tries to guide the family across the flooded river, and retrieves Cash’s tools from the water. He feels especially drawn to Vardaman, and his interest in the boy may result from his own lack of a son.
A local farmer, Armstid provides shelter for the Bundren family after their disastrous river crossing. He makes cryptic comments on the treatment of Cash’s injury, Anse’s trade for a mule team, and the rotting smell coming from the casket.
Gillespie is a farmer who allows the Bundrens to stay on his farm during their journey. Darl burns down his barn to destroy Addie’s coffin and end the humiliating journey.
D Skeet Macgowan
Macgowan is a drugstore clerk in Jefferson. He cons Dewey Dell, giving her fake abortion pills. He seduces her in the cellar of the store.
Moseley is a drugstore owner in Mottson. A religious man, he refuses to sell abortion drugs to Dewey Dell and condemns her for trying to purchase them.
F Dr. Peabody
Dr. Peabody tends to Addie on her deathbed. His help is limited, however, because Anse sends for him too late. He comments on the family’s behavior from an objective perspective. He views the family as proud, but slovenly and ignorant. In Jefferson, Peabody tries to fix the damage done to Cash’s leg.
Samson is a farmer who offers shelter for the Bundren family before they try to cross the river. He unfavorably comments on their refusal to accept his hospitality.
H Rachel Samson
Rachel Samson is Samson’s wife. She expresses outrage at the handling of Addie’s body and relates it to the treatment of all women.
I Cora Tull
Cora is Vernon Tull’s wife. She narrates many of the early chapters in the book, offering her perspective on the Bundrens. Throughout the chapters she narrates, her judgments are almost always self-serving and wrong, often comically so.
J Reverend Whitfield
A local preacher, Reverend Whitfield had an affair with Addie in their youth; in fact, he is Jewel’s father. He has never admitted the affair to anyone. He visits Addie on the night she dies, supposedly to reveal the affair to the Bundren family. When Addie dies, he believes that he has been absolved of his sin by God and remains silent.
K Addie Bundren
The family matriarch, Addie is Anse’s wife and the mother of the Bundren children. She dies early in the book from a lingering illness and the action of the novel revolves around transporting her body to her family’s burial ground. As a young woman, Addie was a schoolteacher in Jefferson. To escape this life, she married Anse, a local farmer. She was happy when she gave birth to her eldest son Cash; but with her next child, Darl, she began to resent her situation.
Years into her marriage, she had a passionate affair with the Reverend Whitfield. During the affair, she became pregnant with Jewel, her favorite child. She had two more children-Dewey Dell and Vardaman-more out of obligation than anything else. Considering Darl, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman products of an unhappy time, she does not feel affection for them; instead, she favors Cash and Jewel.
L Anse Bundren
Anse is the patriarch of the Bundren family. A selfish and lazy man, he claims sweat will kill him, and therefore refuses to work. Instead, he connives to get others to work for him. Physically, he is hunchbacked, and his hands are gnarled.
Though his wife is dying, he allows Darl and Jewel to leave her deathbed to work. He considers himself to be a right-thinking, hard-working man who is victimized by God. In what first seems to be a selfless move, he pushes for the journey to bury Addie at her family cemetery. Later his true motive is revealed: to buy a set of false teeth in Jefferson.
When the family’s mules die in the flooded river, he steals Cash’s money and barters away Jewel’s beloved horse to obtain new mules. During the trip, he scrimps on money wherever possible, even borrowing shovels to bury his wife. While in Jefferson, he takes Dewey Dell’s money, buys false teeth, and secretly woos a local woman. He ends the novel with his new teeth, introducing his new wife to his surprised children.
M Cash Bundren
The oldest son of Anse and Addie, Cash is a carpenter of extraordinary precision and skill. As his mother is dying, he carefully builds her coffin, holding up each board for her inspection. He even decides to bevel the edges of the coffin, despite the extra work it requires.
When the Bundrens try to cross the flooded river, Cash is knocked out of the wagon and suffers a severely broken leg. After the bone is reset, he rides for three days on top of the coffin before the family buys cement to cover the leg. Unfortunately, they apply the cement directly to his skin, which causes a horrible infection. Despite intense pain, Cash remains stoical. When the doctor removes the concrete from his leg, Cash loses over sixty inches of skin along with it.
While in Jefferson, Cash is torn by the decision to commit Darl to an insane asylum. On one hand, he feels empathy for his brother; on the other hand, he recognizes that a man cannot simply burn down another man’s hard-earned property. He eventually agrees with the decision to commit him.
N Darl Bundren
The second of the Bundren children, Darl is a veteran of World War I. He narrates more sections of the book than any other character. He is profoundly jealous of Addie’s obvious preference for Jewel, and throughout the book, he scrutinizes and often goads his brother. He even connives to separate Jewel from Addie when she is dying by volunteering both himself and Jewel to haul lumber. While on this trip, a wagon wheel breaks. As Jewel tries to fix the wheel, Darl narrates his mother’s death for the reader and informs Jewel of her death. This form of “second sight,” or telepathy, also manifests itself in his knowledge of Dewey Dell’s pregnancy.
Darl participates in the journey to Jefferson, but he is never committed to it. Embarrassed by his family and the experience of dragging his mother’s corpse all over the county, he burns down Gillespie’s barn with Addie’s coffin inside. For this act, he is committed to the insane asylum in Jackson. He ends the novel on a train, laughing and talking about himself in the third person.
O Dewey Dell Bundren
Seventeen years old, Dewey Dell is the only daughter of the Bundren family. Like Darl and Vardaman, she feels rejected by her mother, Addie. Because Darl knows about her pregnancy, she resents and fears him. She desperately wants to go to Jefferson so she can obtain “medicine” that will illegally abort the pregnancy. Her first fumbling attempt to acquire the medicine fails when the druggist Mosely refuses to give it to her.
While she is in Jefferson, Anse steals her money. To make matters worse, a sleazy drugstore clerk, Skeet Macgowan, gives her worthless pills filled with talcum powder. He then seduces her. After Addie’s burial, Dewey Dell is strongly in favor of committing Darl to the mental institution.
P Jewel Bundren
Jewel, in his late teens, is Addie’s third son and her favorite child. The product of her affair with Reverend Whitfield, Jewel does not know his true paternity. After a lifetime of being his mother’s favorite, he loves his mother fiercely and feels a strong devotion to her.
Described as tall and wooden in appearance, Jewel is a reticent young man. When he does talk, he usually curses, exhibiting a persistent rage. His favorite possession is his horse, which he bought by working nights for several months. The horse is as fierce as Jewel, and they engage in battles that exhibit both Jewel’s violence and intense love. He loses the horse on the third day of the journey when Anse trades it for a new team of mules. Giving up his horse is one indication that Jewel is the family member most committed to fulfilling Addie’s wish to be buried in Jefferson.
In addition to this sacrifice, he helps retrieve his mother’s coffin when it gets thrown from the wagon during the river crossing. He also saves the coffin single-handedly from Gillespie’s burning barn, suffering many burns as a result. Like Dewey Dell, he is in favor of committing Darl to the mental institution.
Q Mrs. Bundren
Mrs. Bundren is Anse’s second wife. A “duckshaped” woman with “hardlooking pop eyes,” she marries Anse after he woos her in Jefferson.
R Vardaman Bundren
Vardaman is the youngest Bundren child. He cannot fully comprehend the reality of his mother’s death. At first, he blames Dr. Peabody for taking her away and releases Peabody’s horse team for revenge. Then, he believes that Addie is not dead but has mutated into a fish. He bores holes in her coffin to give her air, mutilating her face. Later in the novel, his belief that Addie has become a fish causes his excited fear when Addie’s coffin falls into the river. He runs along the bank, yelling for Darl to catch her so she will not escape, a thought he cannot bear.
Vardaman grows closer to Darl during the trip. At the end of novel, he sees his brother set fire to Gillespie’s barn, which disappoints him. He struggles to understand Darl’s insanity and feels the loss when his brother is taken away to the mental institution in Jackson.