Lost in the Funhouse Characters

John Barth


(Short Stories for Students)

Ambrose is the main character in the story and serves as the author’s alter ego, or other self. At thirteen, he is ‘‘at that awkward age,’’ and in addition to the usual adolescent gawkiness, he is exceptionally introspective and self-conscious. Ambrose is not only just becoming aware of his sexuality, he is experiencing the first inklings of his artistic temperament. In the narrator’s words, ‘‘There was some simple, radical difference about him; he hoped it was genius, feared it was madness, devoted himself to amiability and inconspicuousness.’’

That Ambrose’s father wears glasses and is a principal at a grade school is essentially all the description the story provides. Later in the story, the narrator describes the boys’ father as ‘‘tall and thin, balding, fair-complexioned.’’ At times he betrays a disgruntled nostalgia for the old days.

Fat May
Not technically a character, Fat May the Laughing Lady is a mechanical sign at the entrance to the funhouse whose laughter and bawdy gestures Ambrose feels are directed toward him.

At fourteen, Magda, a girl from the boys’ neighborhood, is ‘‘very well developed for her age.’’ When she goes through the funhouse with Ambrose’s older brother, Ambrose realizes how different he is from the ‘‘lovers’’ for whom the funhouse is fun. On an earlier occasion, she is the girl...

(The entire section is 426 words.)