A man who has recently returned from the war, where he suffered psychological trauma. A strange outsider, Seymour rejects the company of his wife, Muriel, and other adults at the Florida resort where he and Muriel are on vacation. He prefers to play with children at the resort and on the beach. He has an easy rapport with children and fully immerses himself in a childlike world of imagination when he is with them. When a child named Sybil claims she sees a bananafish, a creature that Seymour has invented, he kisses her foot. Seymour ultimately kills himself in the hotel.
Seymour’s pretty, socialite wife. Muriel is unconcerned with Seymour’s mental condition, although whether she is unconcerned because of indifference or deep love for him is never fully clear. Enamored with beauty and materialistic society, Muriel is firmly rooted in the materialistic world that Seymour rejects as well as in the adult world of womanhood and sexuality. In rejecting Muriel, Seymour rejects both society and adulthood.
A young child vacationing with her mother. Sybil befriends Seymour on the beach and is able to understand him better than any other character, perhaps because her innocence has been untainted—unlike Seymour, she has not seen the ugliness of the world. However, Sybil is unnerved by Seymour when he kisses her foot in the ocean. Although Sybil is part of the childhood innocence Seymour would like to repossess, the kiss is an inappropriate gesture. Seymour has crossed a line, and Sybil runs away from him when they return to shore.
A nosey socialite who is frantically concerned with Muriel’s safety around the erratic Seymour. Muriel’s mother reveals some of Seymour’s past transgressions, including strange, dangerous behavior and rude comments to family members, all of which suggest the extent of Seymour’s psychological distress.
Sybil’s mother. Preoccupied with drinking and gossiping, Mrs. Carpenter carelessly allows Sybil to play by herself on the beach, unaware that she is associating with a strange man.