The Semplica Girl Diaries

by George Saunders

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Narrator

The main character is nameless in the story; readers know him only through his diary entries. In this journal, he records whatever is on his mind, revealing his deepest longings and hidden anxieties. Essentially, he is obsessed with money. While attempting to be grateful for what he has, the protagonist cannot help but fixate on his old car, ugly yard, ho-hum job, and maxed-out credit cards. He compares everything he owns to what his wealthy neighbors have, and he sees his life as lacking. He comes from a modest background, reflecting sometimes on growing up poor with parents who always managed to make ends meet, but barely. They only ever had enough, especially after divorcing, and the narrator still feels the sting of his former poverty. Now he aspires to have better things for his family—to be wealthy and show it.

Semplica Girls are a particular obsession, as they represent utter luxury. When the narrator wins ten thousand dollars after buying a lottery ticket, he decides to throw his daughter Lilly a huge birthday party and redo the yard instead of paying the credit card bills. Greenway Landscaping does a beautiful job on his yard and includes four SGs. However, as fanatic as he is about money, the main character is not careful. In addition to maxing out his credit cards, he also enters a dangerous contract in which he is held liable for the full cost of the SGs—almost nine thousand dollars. For him, it is an unimaginable sum.

This character is written in an engaging manner, and readers can easily connect with his day-to-day concerns, even though the world he lives in has some shocking differences from the one readers know. Still, he loves his family, cares about his children's happiness, cherishes his wife, and strives to take care of everyone's wants and needs. In that sense, he is an everyman. Readers are supposed to see him as an average person who might be a neighbor. Because of that, the things he describes are particularly shocking and upsetting.


Eva is the narrator's youngest daughter and is very different from all the other characters. Sensitive and highly empathetic, she hates to see injustice and suffering in others. Eva is especially upset by the human slavery she perceives in the SGs. In pictures, she draws them as sad living dolls. She hates it when her father buys some for their yard.

In the end, ruled by her strong sense of right and wrong, and pushed by her emotions, Eva releases the family's SGs. She can't stand to see them in captivity. However, in doing so, Eva creates a major catastrophe for her family. Her action catapults her parents to confront their money choices in a dramatic way.


The eldest daughter in the narrator's family, Lilly is a girl who notices and likes nice things. She is gentle and friendly, not pushy or insistent, but she quietly cares what others think. For example, she wants expensive, grown-up gifts for her birthday, like porcelain figurines. It bothers her that her family does not have as much as she would like, yet she is sensitive to her parents' inability to provide the grandeur she craves.

Lilly is amazed at her surprise birthday party and loves the SGs her father purchases. It is especially gratifying when her rich friend, Leslie, is envious of their SG arrangement. By admiring the finer things in life, like her father, Lilly provides the impetus for spending extravagant amounts of money. She fixates on the SGs and validates her father's obsession by mirroring it herself.

(This entire section contains 1283 words.)

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Lilly is amazed at her surprise birthday party and loves the SGs her father purchases. It is especially gratifying when her rich friend, Leslie, is envious of their SG arrangement. By admiring the finer things in life, like her father, Lilly provides the impetus for spending extravagant amounts of money. She fixates on the SGs and validates her father's obsession by mirroring it herself.

Leslie Torrini

Leslie is Lilly's wealthy friend who lives in a mansion full of extravagant things. Leslie is the definition of spoiled. Nothing is ever enough for her, and whenever she gets what she wants, another desire appears. For example, she once wanted llamas and now wants ponies, all which her mother cares for. When she sees Lilly's SGs reflected in a pond, Leslie gets snippy and demands a pond of her own—much to our main character's delight. Leslie and her wealthy family represent everything the narrator wishes he was and all the things he wants to acquire.


Pam is the narrator's wife. Supportive and encouraging, Pam does not insist that they live above their means but also appreciates the finer things. She is practical but easily convinced to extravagance. It appears that Pam was used to better things in her youth. The narrator describes her as "his rock" and can always count on her. She is a source of constancy and comfort in his world, even when things come crashing down.

Semplica Girls (SGs)

Although it is not explicitly stated within the text, SG stands for "Semplica Girl." These are a sort of living, floating statue. Their story comes out slowly. SGs are poor immigrant women from desperate circumstances. They sell themselves to Greenway Landscaping and are strung up with something called microline. This allows them to float three feet off the ground and stay there, tethered together, to decorate people's gardens. Microline goes surgically through their heads. The money they make is supposedly sent home to their families.

The SGs never speak in a way readers can observe; they are, in fact, the background, or rather part of the setting. In this story, the SGs are not individual people at all. Instead, they are a desired object that obsesses our narrator. Only Eva sees them as human, with dramatic and unforeseen results.


Thomas is the narrator's son. Boisterous and cheerful, he loves running around and playing with the animals. His mother is always correcting his grammar. In his sheer ordinariness, Thomas provides context for the family.


The family dog, sweet but rather stupid, Ferber is not appreciated by the narrator. Ferber is largely a source of complaint, as no one likes to pick up the poop he leaves around the yard. Mostly, Ferber seems to represent what little the family has. The narrator wants so much more than a simple dog.

Todd Grassberger

Todd is a colleague of the narrator who dies suddenly of a heart attack. At Todd's funeral, his brothers make speeches about him, revealing that he was loved and admired but also a man of many faults. The funeral provokes intense feelings in the narrator. Back at home, the narrator makes a big speech about living each day as if it were the last. Todd's death and funeral, so moving to our narrator, inspire him to tell his children to be brave and dare to dream. Those words, when heard by Eva, lead to dramatic events.

Farmer Rich

Pam's father, Rich is a comfortable farmer with unwavering views. He is very strict about money and does not approve of the narrator. In particular, he thinks having SGs is simply showing off. He refuses to pay the family's debt when their SGs escape and instead writes a pompous email about how they should manage their money better. Even when begged by Pam, he says they should learn their lesson. If Farmer Rich was their only hope to pay back the debt, it is quickly and definitively crushed. The narrator feels betrayed by his father-in-law.


After the SGs disappear, Jerry is the detective assigned to the scene. His job is to figure out how the SGs escaped. A racist, Jerry harps about his failures as a teacher and not appreciating how "dark" kids behaved at school. He seems convinced that the world is worse now than it used to be. He also finds the SGs' escape very fishy, as it does not resemble usual activist work. He stays in the yard, hoping to catch the perpetrator, which makes the main character very anxious.