An upper-class gentleman from Boston in the late 19th century, Julian West, like the rest of his class, enjoys all that the Gilded Age had to offer, including property, education, leisure, and freedom to pursue whatever he chooses. He is mostly concerned with his own comfort and is irritated to find his wedding delayed by labor strikes, which are holding up the construction of his future home. When Julian awakens to find himself in the year 2000, he is surprised to find society completely changed. In this new nation, there are no money or class disparities, and he comes to understand his life in the 19th century was built upon the backs of the less fortunate. The socialist utopia of the year 2000 is infinitely better, he decides. He is grateful to have been removed from his previous life to enjoy it.
After finding a 19th-century man in suspended animation, asleep deep under his property, Dr. Leete carefully awakens Julian and eases him into his new reality. The doctor is unfailingly rational, explaining every aspect of the new social order. He is always sympathetic to the condition of the young man who has been thrust into a completely different world. Dr. Leete understands the 19th-century mindset from which Julian operates, while at the same time condemning its coldness, individualism, and irrationality. The doctor is the perfect ambassador for the nation. He is warm, kind, logical, and meticulous in his explanation.
A young woman of the 20th century, Edith Leete embodies all the ideals of femininity in the year 2000. She, like everyone in the new nation, is educated and physically robust. She is also kind and sympathetic to her visitor, especially when he is in distress. She takes care to protect him from knowing her true identity while he is adjusting to his new surroundings, and only reveals it when she is sure he loves her. Edith believes Julian is an ideal lover, an opinion she formed from reading his letters to her great-grandmother. Her heart breaks for him when he feels pain or confusion over his transportation to the 20th century, and she falls in love with him after only a few short days together.
A privileged lady of the 19th century, Edith Bartlett comes from a wealthy family and is engaged to a member of her own class, Julian. She is beautiful and refined, exhibiting all the feminine ideals of that day. After a suitable period of mourning her beloved Julian, after what she believes is his death, she saves his letters but consents to marry another man.