Augie March, the narrator and main character of the story, which tells about his childhood and youth and about learning what it is to be a man. His final discovery is that there is no finality; to be involved with life and people means to hold on to such principles as freedom, fairness, and personal integrity, but it also means that one must constantly adjust the application of these principles to daily circumstances that challenge and change a person. Augie becomes involved in scratching out a living in the hard streets of Chicago, his home. During his adolescence, he takes a series of odd jobs, none of which appears to get him anywhere in a career. Augie is not interested in a career but in experience itself. He works as a distributor of handbills, a newspaper delivery boy, a janitor at a dime store, an elf in a department store at Christmastime, and a florist’s deliverer, among other positions. When the Depression begins to squeeze everyone, he resorts to occupations that are outside the law, but his sense of basic morality is always strong. Augie serves in World War II. At the end of the story, he is living in Europe, where his wife, Stella, works in the film industry.
Simon March, Augie’s older brother, who takes a different path and provides a contrast that places Augie’s adventures in perspective. Augie’s wanderings might appear to be haphazard and pointless but for the example of Simon, whose safe, correct choices lead him into a dull existence and a loveless marriage. At first, Augie appears to be a fool for refusing to yield to society’s conventions, but at the end of the novel, it is clear that Simon, even though he is successful financially, is the one who squandered his life.
Georgie March, Augie and Simon’s retarded brother, who is sent to a home when he gets old enough to cause trouble. Although Georgie had been a...
(The entire section is 802 words.)