The Ugly American Characters

Some of the main characters in The Ugly American are Homer Atkins, Joe Bing, Father Finian, and Ambassador Louis Sears.

  • Homer Atkins is a retired engineer who helps locals to build water pumps in Sarkhan.
  • Joe Bing is an arrogant American diplomat who does not attempt to understand or know the locals in Southeast Asia. He is ultimately made an ambassador to Sarkhan.
  • Father Finian is a Catholic priest who works hard to understand Burmese customs and peoples.
  • Ambassador Louis Sears is a US ambassador to Sarkhan. During his tenure, he only bothers to speak to other Americans.


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Last Updated on February 11, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2427


Apache is a Vietnamese man who fights for the French. He is captured by the communists who cut out his vocal cords.

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Solomon Asch

Solomon Asch is the head of the American delegation to the Special Armament section of the Asia Conference. He is a tough and experienced negotiator.

Emma Atkins

Emma Atkins, the wife of Homer Atkins, is a simple, straightforward woman who in her own way is as physically ugly as her husband. But also, like her husband, she has a creative and inventive mind and, in fact, supplies him with some of his best ideas. She also develops her own ideas, managing to invent a long-handled broom that the old people in Sarkhan can use in place of their short-handled brooms, which are too hard on their backs.

Homer Atkins

Homer Atkins, the "ugly American" of the book's title, is ugly in physical appearance, not in character. A tough, blunt-spoken man, he is a highly successful retired engineer who is worth $3 million. The U.S. government consults him about building dams and military roads in Southeast Asia, but he insists that what is really needed are things that the local people can manufacture and use for themselves. His advice is ignored, but Ambassador MacWhite is impressed by him and invites him to Sarkhan. In that country, Atkins, in collaboration with a Sarkhanese man named Jeepo, invents a water pump that proves to be an immense labor-saving device for the local people. Atkins sets himself up in business with Jeepo and twelve local workers, and his enterprise is a big success.

Dr. Hans Barre

Dr. Hans Barre is a naturalized American citizen who specializes in Oriental languages. He is on temporary duty at the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam and acts as interpreter during the visit of Senator Brown.

Joe Bing

Joe Bing, an American information officer living in Burma, is a gregarious, sociable man who is very popular amongst other Americans and Westerners, but he is also the kind of American Characters disliked by Asians, since he is loud and ostentatious in his manner and does not mix with the local people. Asians are not invited to his diplomatic parties, at which there is always plenty of alcohol. He appears to think that representing the United States abroad is more about having a good time than in promoting U.S. national interests. When Gilbert MacWhite resigns as ambassador to Sarkhan, Bing is nominated by the State Department to take his place.

Captain Boning

Captain Boning is a Navy officer who takes part in the negotiations in Hong Kong about the placing of U.S. nuclear weapons on Asian soil. During the time of the conference, Boning has an affair with a local Chinese woman who is also a communist agent, and he spends most of his nights with her. Thus he is not alert during the conference sessions, and he gives hesitant answers to questions from the Asian delegates, which makes them think that the Americans are hiding something.

Senator Jonathan Brown

Senator Jonathan Brown, a tough and experienced U.S. senator, started his career as a corrupt man who granted favors to corporations in exchange for financial contributions to his campaign. But once in the Senate he changed his ways and became a man of integrity. As a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, he...

(The entire section contains 2427 words.)

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