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Last Updated on September 9, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 540

Annie Dillard, née Doak

The main character in An American Childhood is the author herself. As a child and adolescent, Dillard is incredibly curious and a voracious reader. She throws herself wholeheartedly into her various interests, which range from drawing to geology to sports. She is also very introspective and tends to see her world in relation to her “interior life,” always seeking out books that will captivate her imagination and match the excitement of this interior life. As a teenager, she becomes wild, passionate, and angry, and questions why she should lead the same suburban Pittsburgh life as her parents. At the memoir’s end, it is clear that she will continue to seek a life of passion and excitement, just as she has throughout her childhood. 

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Dillard’s Mother and Father

Given that the book is written from Dillard’s point of view, her mother and father are characterized according to the way Dillard sees them in relation to herself. She characterizes her mother as clever, smart, and engaging, even a bit of a prankster. Although an upper-class woman and housewife, she is not the typical woman of the 1950s; she teaches her daughters how to both curtsy and play poker. Dillard describes her father, Frank Doak, as being free-spirited despite his conservatism, hard work, and business sense. He is also comedic, like Dillard’s mother. He is obsessed with New Orleans and at one point quits his job to travel there by river, although he gets lonely and returns home before arriving. 

Amy Doak

Dillard has two younger sisters, Amy and Molly—but as Molly is significantly younger than her, she interacts with Amy the most in the course of the memoir. Amy and Dillard spend a great deal of time together as children, but as Dillard ages, she begins to view Amy differently and becomes impatient with her. Amy is a pretty, quiet, obedient child, and she doesn’t doesn’t seem to have the same sense of adventure as Dillard. As a result, Dillard loses interest in Amy in...

(The entire section contains 540 words.)

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