Anywhere But Here
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"Anywhere But Here" Characters Analysis

By Mona Simpson

fiction | 416 pages | Published in NaN

Published originally in 1987, Mona Simpson's first novel is now available in paperback. It tells the story of a mother and daughter who make their way west from Wisconsin, living off an ex-husband's credit card.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

Table of Contents

  1. List of Characters:

List of Characters:

Character NameRole
Adele AugustProtagonist
Ann AugustAdele's Daughter
TedAdele's Boyfriend
Bay CitySetting

Role Identification:

In the novel "Anywhere But Here" by Mona Simpson, the main characters are Adele August, Ann August, and Ted. Adele is the protagonist and the driving force behind the narrative. Ann serves as Adele's daughter and the primary narrator of the story. Ted, Adele's boyfriend, plays a significant role in the family dynamic. The setting of Bay City also plays a crucial role in shaping the characters' experiences.

Character Descriptions:

  1. Adele August: Adele is a complex and dynamic character. She is a charismatic and free-spirited woman with big dreams and a strong desire to escape her mundane life. Adele is impulsive, often making spontaneous decisions without considering the consequences. She is also a loving and devoted mother to Ann, despite her flawed approach to parenting.
  2. Ann August: Ann is Adele's daughter and the voice of reason throughout the novel. She is a sensitive and observant young girl who often finds herself caught between her mother's unpredictable behavior and her own desire for stability. Ann is intelligent and mature beyond her years, providing a grounded perspective amidst the chaos of her mother's antics.
  3. Ted: Ted is Adele's boyfriend and a stabilizing force in the August family. He is a hardworking and caring individual who tries to maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives. Ted provides financial support and emotional stability to Adele and Ann, serving as a counterbalance to Adele's impulsive nature.

Character Traits:

  1. Adele August: Charismatic, impulsive, dreamer, free-spirited, loving, flawed.
  2. Ann August: Sensitive, observant, intelligent, mature, conflicted, grounded.
  3. Ted: Hardworking, caring, stabilizing, supportive, responsible.

Character Background:

  1. Adele August: Adele grew up in a small town and always felt trapped by her surroundings. She yearned for excitement and adventure, which led her to make impulsive decisions and constantly seek new opportunities. Adele's desire for a better life for herself and her daughter is the driving force behind her actions throughout the novel.
  2. Ann August: Ann is the product of Adele's tumultuous relationships and unstable lifestyle. She has been forced to adapt to new environments and navigate her mother's unpredictable behavior from a young age. Ann's background shapes her character, as she strives for stability and a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos.
  3. Ted: Ted's background is less explored in the novel, but he is portrayed as a hardworking individual who provides stability for the August family. He offers emotional support and financial security, which contrasts with Adele's impulsive and unpredictable nature.

Character Arcs:

  1. Adele August: Adele's character arc revolves around her pursuit of a better life and her relationship with her daughter. Throughout the novel, Adele experiences moments of growth and self-reflection, realizing the impact of her actions on Ann. Ultimately, she learns to prioritize her daughter's well-being and make more thoughtful decisions.
  2. Ann August: Ann's character arc focuses on her journey from a young girl caught in her mother's chaotic world to a young woman finding her own identity. As the story progresses, Ann becomes more independent and begins to question her mother's choices. She learns to stand up for herself and make her own decisions, ultimately finding her own path in life.
  3. Ted: Ted's character arc is less pronounced compared to Adele and Ann. However, he plays a vital role in providing stability and support to the August family. Ted's presence allows Adele and Ann to experience moments of calm and normalcy amidst their turbulent lives.


  1. Adele and Ann: The relationship between Adele and Ann is central to the novel. Despite Adele's flawed parenting style, there is a deep love and bond between them. Their relationship evolves throughout the story, with Ann learning to navigate her mother's impulsive behavior while still yearning for stability and a sense of normalcy.
  2. Adele and Ted: Adele and Ted's relationship provides a stabilizing presence in the August family. Ted's love and support allow Adele to feel grounded and less impulsive. While their relationship has its challenges, Ted serves as a counterbalance to Adele's unpredictable nature.
  3. Ann and Ted: Ann and Ted develop a close bond throughout the novel. Ted becomes a father figure to Ann, offering guidance and stability. Their relationship is built on trust and mutual respect, providing Ann with the stability she craves.

In conclusion, "Anywhere But Here" by Mona Simpson explores the complex dynamics between Adele, Ann, and Ted. Through their distinct character traits, backgrounds, and relationships, the novel delves into themes of love, sacrifice, and the pursuit of a better life.