Last Updated on September 4, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 386
Alison is the memoir's narrator and protagonist. She is a lesbian cartoonist tracing her own life around her father's and attempting to make sense of certain memories in light of her father's suicide. As a child, she hated femininity and wanted to express masculinity; at one point she asked her brothers to call her "Albert" instead of Alison. A few months before her father's suicide, she comes out as lesbian in a letter because she is away at college and falling in love with her first girlfriend, Joan.
Bruce is Alison's father. He is obsessed with their Gothic Revival house and is married to a woman but has affairs with young men, including his students. He teaches English and is a war veteran. He struggles internally, taking things out on his family, and his wife becomes weary as the time passes (which she describes to Alison after Bruce has died). He tries to get Allison to express the femininity he feels within himself and forces the entire household to help restore and clean the house.
Helen is Alison's mother. She had dreams of being an actor before she met Bruce and had a family, and Alison views her as having lost her potential after being courted by Bruce. She moved to Europe to be with him, but the couple moved to Bruce's hometown after his father died. There, their lives became riddled with various small problems, and Helen could no longer pursue her art outside of community theater. Though she knew in some ways about Bruce's affairs and problems, she continued with the life they had created together.
Roy is a babysitter for the Bechdel household who is close to the children. He is a student of Bruce's and is eventually revealed to be his lover when Alison finds a photo of him partially undressed.
Joan is Alison's first girlfriend, whom she meets in college. They fall in love and read and discuss feminism together. She comes home with Alison after Bruce dies and is Allison's impetus for coming out to her parents.
John is Allison's younger brother. He is approached by someone who may be a sexual predator when the family takes a trip to New York City. Allison sees him after their father dies and they have both come home.
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