A Chicago-born Jewish-American boy, who grows up poor during the Great Depression, Augie travels through Mexico and Europe, and experiments with various jobs, love affairs, and personalities. By the end of the novel, he has married, gone to war, and settled in Paris, where his wife works for an international film company. Augie's ultimate vocation is to manage black-market deals for a prominent New York lawyer.
Augie's mother Rebecca, or "Mama", is a simple-minded woman who raises three sons on her own. She grows progressively blind over the course of the novel, but by the end, she lives in comfortable, bourgeois style.
Augie's younger brother and the youngest of Rebecca's sons, Georgie is born an "idiot". The job of caring for him is what holds the family together, until Grandma Lausch insists that the time has come to place him in an institution. Georgie grows older in a downstate institution, and eventually becomes a shoemaker.
Augie's older brother, Simon is the eldest of Rebecca's sons, and is the high school valedictorian. When Cissy Flexner, his girlfriend, rejects him for a wealthier man, Simon promptly woos and marries Charlotte Magnus, the daughter of a wealthy coal-mining family. Simon proves a talented businessman, and eventually builds himself a fortune. In the end, however, his fortune strikes him as hollow. His mistress, Renee, only loves him for his money, and Charlotte is unable to bear children.
The first of Augie's major Machiavellian influences, Grandma Lausch is not really Augie's grandmother, but is rather a boarder in the house who assists in the upbringing of the boys. She attempts to school them in the ways of the world, and draws on the experiences that she had while married to a successful businessman. Later, her real sons place her in an institution for the aged, where she passes away of pneumonia.
Augie meets Sylvester when he is employed by Sylvester's father, who owns the Star Theater, to distribute theater handbills. Sylvester is a communist, and is Mimi Villars' sister Annie's ex-husband. Later, he becomes one of Trotsky's bodyguards, and Augie runs into him in Mexico, along with Frazer. Sylvester also appears at Augie's wedding in New York.
Rebecca's sympathetic cousin, Anna Coblin, is an immense woman who "adopts" Augie for a summer. Augie lives with the Coblins, helping with the newspaper route and Five Properties' dairy deliveries. Anna's son, Howard, has run away to join the military, and her daughter, Freidl (who she hopes Augie will one day marry), is a stutterer.
Anna Coblin's immense brother and an up-and-coming real estate magnate, Five Properties is desperately searching for a wife. He ultimately marries Simon's highly desirable girlfriend, Cissy Flexner.
A childhood friend of Augie's, Jimmy Klein works with Augie during the holiday rush at Deever's department store. Together, the two boys skim money off of the inventory, although they are ultimately found out, and Jimmy is beaten by his father.
Jimmy later becomes a police officer and marries a girl who, by accident, he gets pregnant. He catches Augie stealing books from the Carsons, but when he realizes that Augie is trying to raise money for an abortion procedure, Jimmy lends him the money.
Jimmy Klein's cousin and a student of psychology at the University of Chicago, Clem Tambow desires Mimi Villars, who lives in Augie's student house. Much later in the novel, Clem tries to convince Augie to go into business with him as vocational advisors. He also gives Augie advice about going to war, and serves as the audience for the famous speech about "axial lines".
Augie's first love, Hilda Novinson is the tailor's daughter. Augie follows her everywhere, much to Jimmy Klein and Clem Tambow's amusement.
A cripple with an enduring entrepreneurial spirit, Einhorn serves as a father-figure and guide for Augie. Augie works as his personal assistant. Einhorn's real son, Arthur, aspires to be a poet.
Einhorn takes Augie to a brothel on the night of his high school graduation as a gift, thus initiating Augie into manhood. Eventually, Einhorn loses his fortune in the Great Crash.
As Einhorn's devoted wife, Tillie proves adaptable to the family's changed circumstances during the Great Depression. She also tolerates her husband's extramarital affairs. Generally, Tillie is affectionate and motherly towards Augie.
Einhorn's elderly father, the Commissioner, is the original creator of the Einhorn fortune. Many times married, and renowned as a womanizer, the Commissioner passes away before the Great Crash.
Einhorn's only son and a student at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Arthur studies language, literature, and philosophy. His inheritance vanishes in the Great Crash, but he refuses to learn a real profession. This infuriates his father, and signals the end of the Einhorn dynasty. Arthur also becomes Mimi Villars' lover after her break-up with Frazer.
Einhorn's good-natured younger half-brother, Dingbat, a self-proclaimed "fighter", never bears any grudge against his crippled older brother for having mismanaged their inheritance during the Great Crash.
A young woman who works in Einhorn's office, Lollie Fewter becomes Einhorn's lover. Later, her teamster-lover murders her, describing her as a woman with whom one lives "richly".
Jimmy Klein's older sister and a large, melancholy girl, Eleanor affectionately calls Augie "lover". Later, she goes to Mexico in search of love, only to return to Chicago disillusioned.
A 35-year-old mulatto woman Simon hires to help with the household chores, Molly Simms eventually sleeps with Simon, who then fires her.
A 55-year-old native of Luxembourg and a resident of the millionaire's suburb of Evanston, Mrs. Renling takes a special interest in Augie because he works for her husband. She takes him to Benton Harbor for a summer holiday, and, in the end, the Renlings offer to adopt Augie. Although he would become heir to all of their money, Augie rejects the offer.
A wealthy sporting-goods businessman in Evanston, Mr. Renling employs Augie as a salesman.
The purer version of her older sister Thea, Esther Fenchel refuses to date Augie, believing that he is in fact Mrs. Renling's gigolo. She later marries a wealthy lawyer in Washington, DC.
Esther's more passionate older sister, Thea Fenchel falls in love with Augie in Benton Harbor. She leaves him a note claiming that he will see her again one day. Later, she appears in Chicago and asks Augie to accompany her to Mexico, where she plans to file for a divorce. She also plans to train bald eagles to hunt lizards. Augie becomes increasingly disturbed by Thea's preoccupation with hunting, and ultimately cheats on her with another woman. Later in the book, Augie receives a letter from Thea stating that she has married an Air Force captain.
Simon's highly desirable girlfriend Cissy Flexner arrives in Benton Harbor with Simon, where the pair meets up with Augie. Simon confides in Augie that he intends to marry the girl, but because he is unable to raise the proper funds, he loses Cissy to his cousin, Five Properties. This spurs Simon's desire to marry Charlotte Magnus for her money.
A well-known Chicago thief, Joe Gorman befriends Augie and tries to recruit him as a partner. Augie participates in the robbery of a leather-goods store, but refuses any future work. Later in the book, Joe Gorman offers Augie the opportunity to assist in the illegal importation of immigrants over the Canadian border, but Augie agrees only to drive with him East. Joe is captured by state troopers who spot the stolen car that he drives with Augie out East.
A rootless young man, Stoney is befriended by Augie while train-hopping back to Chicago. Augie accidentally leaves him behind when he jumps from a train.
A very large, wealthy, pretty-faced woman, Charlotte Magnus falls in love with Simon, and they marry. She wins Simon's respect as an intelligent businesswoman, and proves to be a prescient advisor. She is, however, unable to bear Simon any children.
A blond-haired and very attractive waitress in a student hash-house near the University of Chicago, Mimi Villars aspires to date men of intelligence and promise. She lives in the same student house as Augie, and dates Frazer. When Mimi becomes pregnant with Frazer's child and seeks an abortion, Augie takes her to see the abortion doctor. After the abortion, Mimi breaks up with Frazer and begins dating Arthur, Einhorn's son.
Charlotte Magnus's younger, prettier, and slighter cousin Lucy falls in love with Augie and refers to him as her "husband". News of Augie's "involvement" in Mimi Villars's abortion, however, prompts the end of this relationship.
Lucy's powerful father Uncle Charlie, a prominent figure in the coal industry, helps Simon to get his start in making his fortune. He also forces the break between Augie and his daughter.
A relation of the Magnuses who has known Simon and Augie since childhood, Kelly Weintraub sabotages Augie's reputation by spreading the news about Augie and Mimi Villars.
The manager of the coal yard Simon receives as a wedding dowry, Happy Kellerman works with Augie to help Simon get a foothold in the coal business.
A talented graduate assistant in political science at the University of Chicago, Frazer meets Augie because he is Mimi's lover. Through Sylvester, he becomes involved in communist party activities, and later appears in Mexico as Trotsky's secretary.
Frazer enters the intelligence service during the war, and attends Augie's wedding in New York. Near the end of the novel, Augie runs into him in Paris, where he is affiliated with the World Educational Fund.
A brilliant and melancholy student at the University of Chicago, Kayo Obermark occupies the room in between Augie and Mimi Villars. Later, after Augie returns to Chicago from Mexico, they teach together at the same school. He tells Augie, memorably, that there will always be bitterness in one's chosen thing.
Mimi's friend and an especially eloquent union organizer, Grammick hires Augie to assist with organizing activities.
A Greek chambermaid at a luxury hotel, Sophie Geratis becomes Augie's lover when he works as a union organizer. When Augie's relationship with Thea fails, he returns to Chicago and resumes his relationship with Sophie. She, by this time, is married to a man who is sexually interested in other men. Augie considers marrying Sophie, but, in the end, decides that she would scold him too much.
A young bald eagle adopted by Thea, Caligula proves cowardly when confronted by the giant lizards. Caligula is a symbol of Thea's romantic disappointment in Augie, as she ships Caligula off to a zoo in Indiana.
A Mexican houseboy, Jacinto assists Augie and Thea in training Caligula to hunt lizards.
A beautiful woman attached to a man named Oliver, Stella escapes to Mexico City with Augie's help. Along the way, they make love, and, later in the novel Augie visits her in New York. They ultimately marry.
After the war, the couple moves to Paris, where Stella works for an international film company. She doesn't have much of a talent for acting, according to Augie, but he accepts that it is her "preoccupation".
Augie also learns that Stella lies more than the average.
Stella's boyfriend in Mexico, Oliver, is arrested in the middle of his housewarming party.
A weepy Yugoslavian who plays Chopin on the piano and is a friend of Frazer's, Paslavitch houses Augie as he recovers from his heartbreak.
A stingy Chicago millionaire, Robey hires Augie to assist him with the book he is planning to write on human happiness, tentatively titled The Needle's Eye. A large, very eccentric, red-bearded man, Robey ultimately desires only to have someone listen to him talk.
A successful, older Armenian divorce lawyer in New York, Mintouchian offers Augie advice on adultery and love. Additionally, Mintouchian confesses that he is in love with his mistress, Agnes Kuttner. Mintouchian later tells Augie about Stella's involvement with a man named Cumberland, a lover from her youth. Stella, he reveals, is attempting to sue Cumberland for money. At the end of the novel, Mintouchian pays Augie to manage his black market dealings in Europe.
Mintouchian's mistress and Stella's friend, Agnes Kuttner fakes a mugging in New York. She claims that her diamond ring had been stolen and collects the insurance proceeds.
A fellow native of Chicago, Basteshaw survives a shipwreck with Augie. Caught together in a lifeboat, Augie listens to Basteshaw discuss the fact that he is obsessed with learning the secrets to creating life. Basteshaw claims to have looked at the map before the ship sank, and states that they are heading straight for the Canary Islands. He later attempts to recruit Augie in his endeavors, and tries to convince him to become his assistant. After a fight at sea, Augie faces the possibility that he might have to throw the man overboard. Whether Basteshaw is a real threat - or simply crazy - is up for debate, and in the end, Augie lets him live. When they are finally rescued by a British tanker, Augie learns they are nowhere near the Canary Islands.
Simon's longtime mistress, Renee threatens to kill herself and claims that she is pregnant. She also tries to sue Simon, and a confrontation arises when Charlotte intervenes. In the end, Charlotte wins; the lawsuit disappears, along with Renee, although Simon believes that she eventually married.
Augie and Stella's house-maid in Paris, Jacqueline travels to Bruge with Augie at the end of the novel. Unattractive and ridiculous, Jacqueline dreams of going to Mexico, which makes Augie laugh. The novel ends on this note of laughter.
The Adventures of Augie March Questions and Answers
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