The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

To please Sarah when he was courting her, teenaged Macon adopted a cool and mysterious façade. Somehow, although he was never comfortable in the role, he became trapped by the persona he had created, unable even at his son’s death to provide comfort or receive it from Sarah. Even before Ethan’s death, however, Macon had difficulty finding meaning in his life, relying, therefore, on “systems” and routine to provide order and stability, if not happiness. Although he writes travel books, Macon despises travel, invariably longing for the routines of home. With Sarah and Ethan gone, however, even his routines fail to soothe him, and Macon slides into depression.

Muriel, one of Tyler’s most memorable characters, is a flamboyantly dressed, unpredictable, and resourceful young woman. After a brief early marriage, she works at an assortment of unconventional jobs to support her seven-year-old son Alexander, whom she alternately coddles and ignores. When she pursues Macon, he is swept along by her strength into a world that seems both exotic and appealing. Through Muriel, Macon is drawn into a world of women: Muriel’s sister, her friends, and her neighbors. As Muriel successfully trains Edward, Macon is also nurtured and strengthened. She is the catalyst through which a happier, more emotionally satisfied man emerges.

Edward is given rare depth and provides the novel with some of its best comic moments. As Macon’s emotional state...

(The entire section is 561 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Macon Leary

Macon Leary, the protagonist and narrator. Macon Leary works as a travel writer for a series of books each containing “The Accidental Tourist” in the title. He hates traveling, but he enjoys writing about travel because he can manipulate descriptions into neatly controlled paragraphs. This need to control everything becomes more obsessive. Eventually, Macon withdraws from the world around him when he loses his son and his wife.

Sarah Leary

Sarah Leary, Macon Leary’s wife. Sarah is an English teacher who listened to rock music in the “old days” to keep up with her students. According to Macon, she is sloppy and disorganized. She is at first amused by Macon’s systems and finds his moods mysterious, but when their son Ethan dies, she becomes tired of Macon’s orderliness. She looks to Macon for comfort, and when Macon cannot comfort her, she leaves him to grieve on her own.

Ethan Leary

Ethan Leary, Macon and Sarah Leary’s twelve-year-old son. Although he is not an active character in the novel, his violent and mindless death is what finally ends his parents’ already strained marriage. He is described as a trusting child who loved people; when nervous, he would bounce on the balls of his feet.


Edward, Ethan’s nervous and temperamental Welsh Corgi. After Ethan dies, Edward starts to turn on Macon’s family and friends. He...

(The entire section is 514 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The same eccentric, quirky characters that appear in all Anne Tyler's works also appear in The Accidental Tourist. From Macon Leary's...

(The entire section is 352 words.)