As close to a central character as the show has, though this is largely because much of it is told through her eyes, Hannah is an insecure, slightly overweight aspiring writer from Lansing, Michigan who has moved to New York to pursue her dreams. At the beginning of the show she's still receiving financial support from her parents, though that quickly changes. She lives in an apartment in Brooklyn with her best friend from college, Marnie.
The Load: She spends the entire first season either not having a job or not having a job that pays any money, meaning Marnie has to pay her rent and other expenses.
Man Child: A rare female example. She's been mooching off her parents even when no longer living with them (and then she starts mooching off Marnie), she can barely sustain a job or relationship for a reasonable amount of time, and she frequently blames everybody else for her problems and mistakes. This is most evident in the episode "Leave Me Alone," where she becomes needlessly jealous of a former classmate for successfully launching her writing career, and then sabotages her chance at finally getting recognition for her writing during an essay read. This, among other things, finally pushes Marnie to her limit. And the two, after a nasty fight, break off their friendship... with Hannah still not realizing how childish her behavior has been.
In series 2 moreso than in series 1. Series 1 was mostly about the world from Hannah's perspective, Series 2 is mostly about Hannah from the world's persepective, which makes her seem like a much stupider and more arrogant person.
Hannah's best friend from Oberlin, Marnie is a slightly prissy and uptight but responsible young woman who works at an art gallery. At the beginning of the series she is in a long-term relationship with Charlie, but feeling a bit bored with it. She and Hannah clash at times, but Marnie does care about Hannah despite her occasional Ice Queen tendencies.
Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Averted. Unlike many other TV show characters who have rather unrealistic dreams of a singing career, her skills are portrayed more as So Okay, It's Average. In the third season, she performs live with a guitar player and turns out to be quite good.
Statuesque Stunner: Quoting Hannah, she's the Victoria's Secret's angel while Hannah is the "fat baby angel".
Jessa Johanson (Jemima Kirke)
A world-traveling, would-be Bohemian Brit, who arrives in New York in the first episode and moves in with Shoshanna. The most impulsive and free-spirited of the bunch, she tends to make things fun for the others but also gets them in trouble at times as well. She has a (well-deserved) reputation for being flaky and unreliable, and like Hannah, she lacks a job at the beginning of the series, though she soon gets one as a babysitter for a wealthy couple.
Freudian Excuse: Gets one in the form of a troubled relationship with her father, who is just as flighty, irresponsible, and self-centered as she is.
Granola Girl: Though less into hippie-type philosophies than most examples.
Hide Your Pregnancy: Jemima Kirke was pregnant during the filming of season two, though this trope is slightly subverted because she wasn't showing as much as some other examples.
Informed Attractiveness: She's pretty and all, but the way people go on about her you'd think she was the most glamorous woman on Earth. Episode 4 is particularly over the top about it when the other babysitters just can't believe a stunner like Jessa is a babysitter and not a movie star.
Bi the Way: In Season 2 Marnie kisses her in front of Thomas John, she kisses back in a more sensual/sexual way and they dismiss his attempts to join in, and in Season 3 she goes down on closeted lesbian Laura at rehab.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl: She seems to give off this vibe to men. Her boss, Jeff, wants her to be this for him. She declines. Thomas-John pursues and marries her because he views her as this. It doesn't end well.
Tsundere: With her husband Thomas-John. She marries him because she hates him so much.
Jessa: [During her vows] Thomas-John, when you came to my house with flowers, I was prepared to call the special victims unit. Not only did I find you very creepy, but I also found you very boring. But for some reason, I decided to have dinner with you. You asked to move tables twice — and I was even more revolted. Then, you started talking about what you did — about travel and finance— and I thought, this man is brilliant in a way I've never known.
Going Cold Turkey: After rehab she is not shown drinking or using until Jasper hunts her down at her place of work and it doesn't take much convincing for her to join him in a cocaine binge that results in her stealing from her employer.
Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosie Mamet)
Jessa's American cousin, Shoshanna is the youngest and least experienced of the group, and also the only one who's still a student. She's also still a virgin at the beginning of the series, a status about which she is extremely insecure.
Action Girl: In Episode 7. Those kickboxing classes pay off.
Marnie's boyfriend, who at the beginning of the series has been with her since meeting her at an undergraduate party four years before. He's very kind and accommodating to her, but she's grown a bit bored of him. He's in a music duo with his friend Ray.
Gadgeteer Genius: Charlie made a lot of money and started a successful company after developing an app ("Forbid") that prevents you from calling someone (such as an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend) whom you are tempted to call but know that you shouldn't call.
Dogged Nice Guy: To Marnie's annoyance. Later shows that he can be just as big a Jerkass as any of the other characters.
Hidden Depths: As with Adam, there's a bit more to him than is initially presented.
Hannah's ex-boyfriend from college. Hannah tracks him down in season one to give him some news, only to find out that he has some news himself - he's gay, and now out of the closet. He later becomes a recurring character.
Berserk Button: "Berserk" is a tad strong, but he does not like people making fun of his singing voice.
Shoshanna: During her breakup with Ray You hate everything!
Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone)
A conceptual artist whom Marnie meets at an art gallery in the first season, and later dates after her breakup with Charlie. Unlike most of the other characters, he's fairly successful at his job, and while Marnie admires him for it he isn't universally liked.
Badass Boast: Using these seems to be central to his approach to chatting up women. From what we've seen so far, it works.
A venture capitalist who meets Marnie and Jessa when the two are out drinking one night. He tries to put the moves on them, unsuccessfully, but later comes back into the picture when it's revealed that he's been seeing Jessa and the two of them have decided to get married.
Boring, but Practical: The way he views his profession - it may not be as interesting as what Jessa and her friends do, but it pays the bills.
A black law student whom Hannah briefly dates after her breakup with Adam. Elijah dislikes him and Hannah is critical of him because of his conservative political beliefs, but he generally remains good-natured with them.
Strawman Political: Averted. In general he politely avoids discussing politics, and while he refuses to apologize for his beliefs to Hannah or Elijah he isn't presented as unreasonable in doing so.
Token Minority: To this point, the only non-white character to have much of a role on the show.
Caroline Sackler (Gaby Hoffman)
Adam's emotionally unstable sister who briefly lives at Hannah's. According to Adam, she has a thing for driving a wedge between people.
Tad and Loreen Horvath (Peter Scolari and Becky Ann Baker)
Hannah's parents, who are university professors in Michigan. They had been supporting Hannah financially as she worked at her unpaid internship, but cut her off from further support in the initial episode.
Bumbling Dad: Hannah's father displays a degree of naivete, or at least lack of sophistication, that is surprising given that he's a college professor ("Can we get a hotel for $50 a night in Manhattan?")
Hippie Parents: They display traces of that, as can be seen in the contrast between their wild shower sex and Hannah's more pedestrian romantic encounters.