The novel's protagonist, David is an American expatriate who came to Paris to try to figure out what he wants to do with his life after leaving the army. Giovanni's Room progresses as David reflects back on his life, especially events surrounding his intense affair with an Italian émigré bartender named Giovanni and his inability to accept his homosexuality.


An Italian émigré in Paris working in a gay bar who meets David and has a brief but passionate affair with him. At the beginning of Giovanni's Room we learn that Giovanni is awaiting execution for the murder of his former employer. Described as beautiful, we also learn that Giovanni is also sad and vulnerable.


David’s American fiancé who is traveling in Spain  throughout most of the book, she is reunited with David in Chapters 4 and 5 of Part Two. Hella represents David’s attempt to live a traditional, heterosexual life.


Childhood friend of David in Brooklyn. One night the two become intimate, which fills David with fear and shame, and David never sees him again.

David's father

Lives in New York and provides David with financial support while pressuring him to return home to the United States.

Aunt Ellen

David’s aunt who helps raise him after David’s mother dies.


Soldier who David has sex with while in the army; later court-martialed for being gay.


A Belgian businessman living in Paris, Jacques is an older gay acquaintance of David whose behavior David disdains.


Owner of the bar that Giovanni works at in Paris. Giovanni is later convicted of killing him.

"Zombielike" bar patron

Customer at Guillaume’s bar in Paris who disturbs David in Part One, Chapter two.

Restaurant hostess

Acquaintance of Giovanni’s who greets him at seedy restaurant in Les Halles in Part One, Chapter three.


Caretaker at David and Hella's house in the south of France who advises David to settle down and get married in Part One, Chapter three.

Sailor outside American Express office

Good-looking sailor who David absent-mindedly stares at in Part Two, Chapter two.


Acquaintance of David who he has sex with in Part Two, Chapter two.


Street prostitute friend of Giovanni’s that talks to David about Giovanni in Part Two, Chapter four.

Sailor in Nice

Sailor who David is hooking up with when Hella confronts him in Part Two, Chapter five.