Caligula is the young eagle trained to hunt lizards by Augie and Thea Fenchel. When he turns out to be ‘‘chicken,’’ Augie’s sympathy for him contributes to the tension between Augie and Thea. Uncle Charlie Charlotte Magnus’s uncle, Uncle Charlie helps set up Simon in the coal business. However, he takes less of a liking to Augie, who is more interested in romance and adventure than making money and obtaining power.
Anna Coblin serves as a surrogate mother to Augie in his youth. He lives briefly with the Coblins and works for Anna’s brother, Five Properties. A kindly and emotional woman, Anna is devastated when her son runs away to enlist in the Marine Corps. The Commissioner The patriarch of the Einhorn family. He passes away before the stock market crash wipes away much of the family’s wealth. Like his son, he is a womanizer. Dingbat Einhorn’s younger, less intelligent half brother. Augie and Dingbat briefly work together managing an unsuccessful prizefighter.
Augie goes to work for William Einhorn while still in high school. Einhorn loses much of his family’s wealth during the Great Depression. Augie does everything for the crippled Einhorn, including carrying him when necessary. In Augie’s mind, his words have the weight of wise figures like Julius Caesar or the hero of Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses.
The only son of the Einhorn family, Arthur is a student at the University of Illinois. He falls in love with Mimi Villars and, much to his father’s disgust, becomes her lover.
Einhorn’s wife. She acts as a surrogate mother to Augie.
Augie meets Esther when he is living with the Renlings. She is wealthy and unobtainable, rebuffing Augie’s advances because she believes he is Mrs. Renling’s lover.
Esther’s older sister, Thea falls for Augie as he falls for Esther. Thea is determined and emotional. She proclaims her love for Augie before he leaves the Renlings, telling him they will meet again. She reappears when he has taken up with Sophie Geratis. Augie leaves Sophie for Thea, believing the latter is the love of his life. The couple travels to Mexico, where she demands he assist her in training an eagle to fight iguanas. The project fails, and Augie’s doubts about it drive them apart. After Augie spends a night with Stella, Thea rejects him and leaves him in Acatla.
An employee of Einhorn’s, Lollie begins but then halts a romantic relationship with Augie. Augie then learns she is also involved with Einhorn. She is later murdered by another lover.
Anna Coblin’s brother, with whom Augie works when Grandma Lausch sends him to live with the Coblins. Five Properties marries Cissy Flexner, an attractive girl whom Simon March had planned to wed.
Cissy Flexner is Simon March’s attractive girlfriend, whom he hopes to marry. Cissy refuses to marry him, however, instead marrying his cousin, Five Properties, because Simon is essentially penniless.
Frazer is Mimi Villars’s lover when Augie meets him as one of Padilla’s stolen-book customers. He is a graduate student in political science at the University of Chicago. He gets Mimi pregnant but responds by going to an academic convention in Louisiana. When Augie is in Mexico, Frazer appears and tries to convince Augie to help protect the exiled Communist Leon Trotsky by traveling with him posing as his nephew.
A Greek chambermaid whom Augie meets when he works as a union organizer. They become and remain lovers until Thea Fenchel tracks him down. After his return from Mexico, Augie briefly returns to the kind and now-married Sophie.
A small-time Chicago gangster who twice convinces Augie to join him in crime. When Augie is still in high school, Gorman enlists him to rob a store. When Einhorn hears of the robbery, he lectures Augie about staying away from violent crime, using Gorman as an example. Years later, when Augie is down on his luck, he meets Gorman and they drive to Canada in a stolen car to bring illegal aliens into the country. The plan goes awry and Augie last sees Gorman bloodied and in the back seat of a police car.
Grammick is the genteel law student and union organizer who recruits Augie to become an organizer for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).
The son of Thea and Augie’s maid in Acatla. He helps them find lizards for Caligula.
Simon’s experienced yardmaster at the coal yard.
A neighborhood boy and friend of Augie’s. Together they steal quarters while working as Santa’s elves in a department store at Christmas time. Augie runs into Jimmy again when the latter, now a policeman, catches Augie stealing textbooks.
Stella’s best friend and the lover of Augie’s friend and employer, Mintouchian.
A Russian immigrant of apparently important background, Grandma Lausch lives with the March family during Augie’s boyhood. While she is no relation to the rest of the family, she strives to mold the March boys into successes. When she becomes senile and increasingly hard on Augie’s mother, Grandma is placed in a mental institution.
The heavyset daughter of a well-to-do family, Charlotte is targeted for marriage by Simon March after he is dumped by Cissy Flexner. Charlotte turns out to be a help to Simon in business, though their marriage is not a happy one.
Charlotte’s cousin, whom Simon hopes Augie will marry. She is keen on Augie, calling him ‘‘husband,’’ but her family cuts off the affair.
Augie’s mother, whose name is Rebecca, is a kindly but somewhat weak-willed woman of failing eyesight. At the beginning of the novel she is dominated by Grandma Lausch. Later, when she has gone blind, she lives comfortably in an institution for the blind and is supported by Simon.
The central figure of the novel, Augie begins the story as a Jewish teenager in a mostly non-Jewish, poor section of Chicago. Looking for his place in the world, he tries all sorts of occupations—some legal, some not. Eventually he graduates from high school and leaves college to pursue his adventures. He attracts a number of mentors who try to bend him to their way of seeing the world. But Augie is ‘‘oppositional’’ and wants to find his way on his own terms. His journeys take him to Mexico and Europe, where he settles into married life while working in the postwar black market.
Augie’s mentally challenged brother, Georgie is eventually institutionalized. When Augie visits him years later, he is impressed and somewhat jealous that Georgie has become a shoemaker.
Simon is Augie’s older brother, and his desire for wealth, power, and prestige serves as a counterpoint to Augie’s adventures. Simon is valedictorian at his high school, but a summer waiting tables at a wealthy resort creates a burning desire to achieve status at any cost. This is reinforced when his beautiful girlfriend, Cissy Flexner, refuses to marry Simon and instead weds his cousin, Five Properties, because Simon could not raise enough money for the marriage. Simon in turn marries Charlotte Magnus for her money and uses her family connections to become rich in the coal business and other concerns. He also takes up with a young lover, Renee. Despite his success, by the story’s end his affair has collapsedinto a threatenedlawsuit and public humiliation.
An older Armenian lawyer whose specialty appears to be messy divorces. He befriends Augie because his lover, Agnes Kuttner, is Stella’s best friend. After World War II, Augie works for Mintouchian on the European black market. Mintouchian tells Augie about important secrets about her past that Stella has been keeping from him.
Hilda, the daughter of a neighborhood tailor, is Augie’s first crush, though he never speaks a word to her.
Kayo Obermark lives in the room between Augie and Mimi Villars and overhears much of their conversation. Near the end of the novel, Kayo and Augie teach at the same school. Their friendship is temporarily damaged when Augie sells his car to Kayo’s brother.
Oliver is a member of the American colony in Acatla and, when Augie meets him, Stella’s lover. It turns out he is on the run from the police. Stella tells Augie that Oliver has a violent temper and convinces Augie to help her escape from him.
A brilliant student of math and science who steals textbooks to finance his education. Padilla helps Augie become a book thief as well.
An emotional Russian Communist who meets Augie in Mexico through Frazer and Sylvester.
Owner of a successful sporting goods business, Mr. Renling hires Augie as a salesman.
Mrs. Renling, an immigrant from Luxembourg, takes Augie under her wing with the intention of teaching him the ways of the wealthy. She takes Augie to the resort town of Benton Harbor, Michigan, where he serves as her companion. Mrs. Renling becomes fond of Augie and offers to adopt him.
The eccentric millionaire whom Augie serves as a research assistant.
The African American housekeeper hired by Simon to take care of the Marchs’ house because of Mama’s failing eyesight. On New Year’s Eve, Simon sleeps with Molly and then fires her.
Stella is a beautiful film actress whom Augie meets in Acatla, Mexico. She asks Augie for help escaping from her lover, Oliver, and when he agrees, his car breaks down. They make love, essentially ending Augie’s relationship with Thea. They meet again as Augie readies to ship out to World War II. They fall in love and marry. After the war, they settle in France, and Stella pursues her interest in acting. Because he loves her, Augie seems to give up his dream of having children and opening an ‘‘academy and foster-home.’’ He also accepts the fact that she ‘‘lies more than is average.’’
Stoney is a sympathetic African American hobo with whom Augie travels on his way back to Chicago from Buffalo.
Sylvester turns up many times in Augie’s life. As a boy, Augie passes out handbills for Sylvester’s father’s theater. Later, Augie discovers that Sylvester was married to the sister of Mimi Villars. In Mexico, Augie again runs into Sylvester, who is now a bodyguard for the exiled Russian Communist leader Leon Trotsky.
Jimmy Klein’s cousin, Clem talks with the boys about burning down Deever’s Department Store. Later, as a student at the University of Chicago, he falls for Mimi Villars, Augie’s neighbor. Clem and Augie have an important conversation in which Clem urges Augie to find an exciting specialty in life. Clem suggests they go into business together, but Augie tells him of his desire to follow life’s ‘‘axial lines.’’
Augie has a more meaningful relationship with Mimi than with any other woman in the novel except perhaps for Stella, though Mimi and Augie are not romantically involved. Mimi lives in the student housing where Augie and Kayo Obermark also have rooms. She is a waitress and is clearly intelligent. Mimi dates Frazer until she becomes pregnant by him. After Augie helps Mimi get through her experience of having an abortion, she begins to date Arthur Einhorn.
Weintraub is from Augie’s neighborhood and is a cousin to the Magnus family. Augie runs into him while helping Mimi get an abortion, and he spreads the rumor that Mimi is pregnant by Augie. This leads the Magnuses to break off Augie’s relationship with Lucy Magnus.
Source Credits: Sara Constantakis, Novels for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 33, Gale-Cengage Learning, 2010