Last Updated on July 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 921
Greg is the main character of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and serves as its narrator through the journal format. Interestingly, despite the book's title, Greg insists that he is not writing in a diary but in a journal, as the word "diary" seems ripe with bullying potential. Greg is new to middle school life and struggles with his place in the social hierarchy. He seems to have a clear understanding that he is not at the top of this hierarchy, but he isn't quite sure how to better his social position—though he certainly wants to.
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Greg is quite creative and comes up with one idea after another in his quest to be better liked and more well-respected by his peers. At one point, he decides to run for Treasurer of Student Government. He chooses this position strategically, thinking "nobody ever thinks about running for Treasurer, because all anyone ever cares about are the big-ticket positions like President and Vice President." Unfortunately, he also decides to run a smear campaign against his opponent, which effectively ends his own campaign. Later Greg comes up with another idea to join the Safety Patrol. Again, this is a strategic decision, as Greg rationalizes that "if someone picks on a Safety Patrol, it can get them suspended. The way I figure it, I can use any extra protection I can get." Sadly, Greg uses this position as an easy get-out-of-pre-algebra-free card and ignores the bathroom needs of the kindergartners in his care.
Ultimately, Greg elicits mixed feelings in readers. We feel compassion for Greg at various times—like when Roderick tricks him into thinking he's slept through the entire summer vacation. However, we also feel exasperation at his selfishness and insensitivity—for example, when Greg notices his grandmother's house has been rolled in toilet paper but notes that "Grandma is retired, so she probably didn't have anything planned for today anyway." Greg is a complex character who is still growing and trying to evolve into a better version of his middle school self. By the end of the story, we see that Greg has achieved a bit of personal growth, developing into more confident person and a less selfish friend.
Greg's mom is often in the background but serves as a solid source of support and reason throughout Greg's misadventures. It is her idea that Greg start keeping a journal, undoubtedly because she has noticed the inner conflict he is experiencing as a young teenager. Susan's parenting style is supportive and encouraging yet firm—she's certainly no pushover. She supports Rodrick's band, even buying him his first drum set. When Greg decides that he wants a weight set so that he isn't in the smallest weight group in wrestling at school, however, Susan tells him that he first has to "prove that [he] could stick with an exercise regimen." Susan tries to instill a sense of selflessness in Greg, as demonstrated when she takes Greg out at Christmas to shop for the less fortunate (though Greg isn't mature enough to understand the value of doing so). Though she is occasionally a bit overbearing, Greg's mother proves that she is willing to support her sons' dreams.
Greg's teenage older brother, Rodrick, is a constant source of angst for him. Rodrick is in a metal band called Loaded Diaper with his friends, though they don't seem to have many fans. Rodrick and Greg do not share a warm and fuzzy relationship, and Rodrick often plays tricks on Greg—for example, he fools Greg into thinking he had slept through the whole summer. Greg notes that although he gives Rodrick a book about rock bands for Christmas, Rodrick gives him a book called Best of L'il Cutie, which Greg not only hates but has received from Rodrick for the past four Christmases in a row. Greg isn't a much better role model for his younger brother, Manny (a minor character), so it's hard to feel too badly for him during these brotherly episodes.
Rowley serves as Greg's closest friend throughout most of the book, but Greg doesn't treat him with great kindness and often takes his friendship for granted. Early in the book Greg estimates that while he is hovering around 52nd or 53rd most popular at school, Rowley "is probably hovering right around the 150 mark." Unlike Greg, however, Rowley is quite self-possessed and doesn't seem too concerned about his popularity at school.
At Christmas, Greg is really looking forward to Rowley's gift because his family is wealthy and he thinks the gift will be worth lots of money. When he sees that Rowley has chosen the gift himself—a Big Wheel—he is so disappointed that he can hardly contain his disdain. A bit later, he invents a game where Rowley has to ride the Big Wheel while Greg tries to knock him off with a football. Despite this less-than-stellar treatment, Rowley sticks with Greg (mostly by ignoring lots of his unsolicited advice) throughout most of the book.
The do boys have a falling out near the end of the book and engage in an actual fight. After a humiliating encounter with a group of teenagers, however, Greg has a redeeming moment and spares Rowley the public embarrassment of the "Cheese Touch." Despite Greg's interest in being popular, Rowley often appear to be the more well-liked of the two. He is even chosen as the Class Clown, showing that lots of people appreciate his sense of humor, which Greg has somehow missed.