Aunt Dan and Lemon

by Wallace Shawn

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 586


Leonora, called Lemon, Susie and Jack’s daughter. A sickly young woman living alone in London, Lemon sits in her apartment and subsists on bread, fruit, and vegetable juices. Lately, her time has been spent sleeping, masturbating, and reading books about the Nazi death camps. During her childhood, Lemon would lie in bed and listen to the stories told by Aunt Dan. Lemon later explains that when she was eighteen, she felt physically attracted to Aunt Dan, but because Aunt Dan was sick at the time, she did not make an advance. Lemon’s defense of the Nazis and their cruelty appears to have been influenced by Aunt Dan’s beliefs that governments will survive only through the use of violence.

Danielle (Aunt Dan)

Danielle (Aunt Dan), an American academic living in England who is a friend of Jack and Susie. As a young woman, Danielle became friends with Susie and later introduced her to Jack. She is nicknamed Aunt Dan by the eleven-year-old Lemon. At night, she would tell Lemon stories about the great man Henry Kissinger. According to Aunt Dan, the former American secretary of state carried the problems of an entire nation on his shoulders. She defends every decision that Kissinger made during the Vietnam War, for she understands that governments must use force if they are to survive. Aunt Dan has an affair with the prostitute Mindy after Mindy kills a man for sexual thrills.


Jack, Lemon’s father, an American who went to England to study at Oxford. After marrying Susie, Jack went to work in an auto parts manufacturing company. Never wanting to admit that he is wrong in his actions, Jack, now the owner of his own auto parts business, feels compelled to defend his own work against that done by intellectuals in the universities, perhaps as a way of assuring himself that leaving Oxford after marrying Susie was the right thing to do. Cold and impersonal in his feelings, Jack argues that Susie and her anxieties are the causes of Lemon’s eating disorder.


Susie, Lemon’s mother, an Englishwoman. Loving and kind, Susie is also an emotionally sensitive woman. She becomes distraught about young Lemon’s eating disorder. Her anxieties worsen when Jack tells her that her worrying is the cause of the problem. Susie opposes Aunt Dan’s defense of Henry Kissinger and his decision-making involvement concerning the Vietnam War, as well as Aunt Dan’s ideas that nations must exert violent force so that others do not have to. Susie tells Aunt Dan that, although she does not know Kissinger, she is certain that there are some people who cannot curb their violent natures. Susie’s opposition to Aunt Dan ultimately causes a falling out between them.

Mindy Gatti

Mindy Gatti, a London prostitute. Blonde and attractive, Mindy is an amoral and violent woman. Mainly for thrills, she strangles and kills Raimondo, a foreign drug dealer, after engaging in oral sex with him. After she kills him, Mindy wraps the body in a plastic sack and hides it in the trunk of a car. Later, she tells Aunt Dan about the murder, and the two make love; Aunt Dan finds herself emotionally and sexually attracted to Mindy while listening to the story. Mindy’s act of murder exemplifies Aunt Dan’s idea that violence is necessary in order to survive. The two begin an affair that lasts only a week. Aunt Dan breaks off the affair before her feelings for Mindy sour.

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