CivilWarLand in Bad Decline Characters
by George Saunders

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CivilWarLand in Bad Decline Characters

The main characters in CivilWarLand in Bad Decline include Jeffrey, Mary, and Cole.

  • Jeffrey is the narrator of “The 400-Pound CEO.” He is bullied for his weight by his coworkers and especially his boss, whom he accidentally kills.
  • Mary, the protagonist of “Downtrodden Mary’s Failed Campaign of Terror,” is an elderly museum employee fired for attempting to subvert her supervisor’s career.
  • Cole is the protagonist of “Bounty.” Considered a “Flawed” due to the claws on his feet, Cole leaves the medieval theme park where he lives to rescue his sister and ultimately joins the Flawed resistance against the “Normals.”

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The Narrator of “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline”

“CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” is narrated by an unnamed protagonist who works as an assistant in a Civil War–themed amusement park. He’s recently been promoted after nine years as a “lowly verisimilitude inspector” and struggles against his own weak will in both his marriage and his job. After a well-intentioned attempt to make the park safer goes awry and a teenager is killed, the narrator is plagued by guilt.

When the park closes and the owner sets it on fire for insurance money, the narrator refuses to leave, insisting that he is “done living.” The ghost of the dead boy emerges, and during their argument, the narrator finally confronts his guilt over the story’s events.

In the final scene, the narrator is killed by Sam and becomes a ghost.

Mr. Alsuga

Mr. Alsuga is the narrator’s boss in “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.” He is authoritative, callous, and flippant, and he primarily continues to employ the narrator because he is, in Mr. Alsuga’s words, a “yes-man.” When the park closes after Sam’s massacre of the birdwatching group, Mr. Alsuga sets the grounds on fire for insurance money.


Sam is a mercenary hired by Mr. Alsuga to take care of the park’s gang problem in “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.” He does, but his approach to security is overzealous—he kills a teenager who steals candy and later shoots the members of a birdwatching group he mistakes for a gang. In the final scene, he kills the story’s narrator.

The Narrator of “Isabelle”

The unnamed narrator of “Isabelle” is first introduced as a young boy. While out fishing one day, he and his brother, Leo, are traumatized when they see Split Lip drown a Black teenager in front of his young brother ,Norris. Not long thereafter, they’re traumatized a second time—Norris, intending to shoot Split Lip as vengeance for his brother’s murder, shoots himself instead.

When Split Lip needs someone to help care for his disabled daughter, Boneless, the boys’ father sends the narrator. The two become very close, but when Split Lip dies, Boneless is sent to live in a state facility. Eventually, realizing they’re both miserable, he finds a place of his own and brings her to live with him.

Isabelle (Boneless)

Called “Boneless” for most of the story, the eponymous protagonist of “Isabelle” is the daughter of Split Lip. She is disabled and non-verbal, but she and the narrator forge a friendship when he teaches her to communicate by typing. When her father dies, she is sent to a state facility.

Isabelle is deeply distraught when she learns of her father’s crime, and distances herself from the narrator and his family. Eventually, however, they reconnect, and she moves in with the narrator.


Leo is the brother of the narrator of “Isabelle.” After being traumatized by witnessing first a murder and then a suicide, he becomes radicalized. He joins the Nazis first, then the military, and is the one who tells Boneless/Isabelle the truth about her father.

Split Lip

Split Lip is Boneless/Isabelle’s father in “Isabelle.” Though deeply devoted to his daughter, he is a racist, a murderer, and a crook. His murder of Norris’s older brother sets into motion both Norris’s suicide and Leo’s radicalization.


Norris is the younger...

(The entire section is 1,443 words.)