Appointment in Samarra
Goodreads ratings
3.82 / 5

"Appointment in Samarra" Characters Analysis

By John O'Hara

fiction | 240 pages | Published in 2013

The best-loved book by the writer whom Fran Lebowitz compared to the author of The Great Gatsby, calling him “the real F. Scott Fitzgerald” One of the great novels of small-town American life, Appointment in Samarra is John O’Hara’s crowning achievement. In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, social circuit is electrified with parties and dances. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent toward self-destruction. Brimming with wealth and privilege, jealousy and infidelity, O’Hara’s iconic first novel is an unflinching look at the dark side of the American dream—and a lasting testament to the keen social intelligence if a major American writer.


Estimated read time: 8 min read

In the novel "Appointment in Samarra," written by John O'Hara, several intriguing and complex characters bring the story to life. This character analysis will delve into the main characters, their roles, backgrounds, traits, character arcs, and relationships within the novel.

List of Characters

Julian EnglishProtagonist
Caroline EnglishJulian's wife
Harry ReillyJulian's friend
Lute FlieglerWealthy socialite
Irma FlieglerLute's wife
Grace LarkinSocialite
Ed CharneyGangster
Ann ChapinJulian's mistress
Hoppy GrantJulian's employee
Al GreccoGangster
Emily HahnSocialite
Joe ReillyHarry's brother
Ralph HopkinsSocialite

Role Identification

Julian English: The protagonist of the story. He comes from a privileged background, owns a Cadillac dealership, and is part of the upper-class social circle in Gibbsville.

Caroline English: Julian's wife, who remains loyal to him despite his destructive behavior and infidelity.

Harry Reilly: Julian's close friend, who tries to support him but cannot prevent the events leading to Julian's downfall.

Lute Fliegler: A wealthy socialite who is part of the elite social scene. He and his wife, Irma, represent the lifestyle that Julian aspires to.

Irma Fliegler: Lute Fliegler's wife, who becomes Julian's love interest and contributes to his ultimate downfall.

Grace Larkin: A socialite with whom Julian has a brief affair.

Ed Charney: A dangerous gangster who has a past history with Julian, ultimately leading to dire consequences.

Ann Chapin: Julian's mistress, who is instrumental in his descent into self-destruction.

Hoppy Grant: Julian's loyal employee, who shows concern for Julian's well-being.

Al Grecco: Another gangster who adds tension and danger to Julian's life.

Emily Hahn: A socialite who plays a minor role but reflects the interconnectedness of the social circle in Gibbsville.

Joe Reilly: Harry Reilly's brother and a minor character who helps highlight Julian's poor decision-making.

Ralph Hopkins: A socialite linked to Julian's circle, providing insight into the upper-class social scene.

Character Descriptions

Julian English: Julian is a charismatic individual belonging to the affluent society in Gibbsville. He is handsome, self-assured, and possesses a certain air of entitlement. Julian is known for his impulsive behavior, which ultimately leads to his downfall.

Caroline English: Caroline is Julian's devoted wife. She is elegant and supportive, standing by Julian despite his flaws and reckless actions.

Harry Reilly: Harry is Julian's loyal friend, always there to listen and help. He represents stability and offers sound advice that Julian often chooses to ignore.

Lute Fliegler: Lute is a wealthy socialite known for his lavish parties and extravagant lifestyle. He is a symbol of success and an example of what Julian aspires to be.

Irma Fliegler: Irma is married to Lute Fliegler but embarks on a passionate affair with Julian. She is beautiful, seductive, and becomes the catalyst for Julian's downfall.

Grace Larkin: Grace is a high-society woman and one of Julian's love interests. She exemplifies the promiscuous nature of the upper class in Gibbsville.

Ed Charney: Ed is a dangerous gangster from Julian's past, seeking revenge. He adds an element of suspense and danger to the storyline.

Ann Chapin: Ann is Julian's mistress, who ultimately becomes a pawn in the destructive events that unfold. She is portrayed as both vulnerable and conniving.

Hoppy Grant: Hoppy is Julian's employee, who cares about him and tries to support him despite Julian's destructive behavior.

Al Grecco: Al Grecco is a menacing gangster who threatens Julian's life. His presence adds tension and creates a sense of impending doom.

Emily Hahn: Emily is a minor character in the novel, reflecting the interconnectedness of the upper-class social circles in Gibbsville.

Joe Reilly: Joe Reilly, Harry's brother, shows how Julian's actions impact those around him, as Joe becomes unintentionally embroiled in the dangerous events.

Ralph Hopkins: Ralph is another socialite linked to Julian's world, offering further insights into the upper-class society.

Character Traits

Julian English: Charismatic, impulsive, reckless, privileged.

Caroline English: Devoted, elegant, loyal, patient.

Harry Reilly: Loyal, sensible, trustworthy, supportive.

Lute Fliegler: Wealthy, extravagant, influential, admired.

Irma Fliegler: Beautiful, seductive, passionate, manipulative.

Grace Larkin: Promiscuous, alluring, confident, high-society.

Ed Charney: Dangerous, vengeful, menacing, criminal.

Ann Chapin: Vulnerable, cunning, manipulative, remorseful.

Hoppy Grant: Loyal, caring, concerned, loyal employee.

Al Grecco: Menacing, threatening, violent, dangerous.

Emily Hahn: Socialite, connected, observant, peripheral.

Joe Reilly: Troubled, impacted, consequence bearer, minor character.

Ralph Hopkins: Socialite, influential, affluent, observant.

Character Background

Julian English: Julian comes from a privileged background, raised in a wealthy family. He has been part of the upper-class society in Gibbsville for many years and owns a thriving Cadillac dealership.

Caroline English: Caroline also belongs to a well-to-do family from Gibbsville. She married Julian and has stood by him through all of his highs and lows.

Harry Reilly: Harry, a close friend of Julian, is from a similar upper-class background. He has known Julian for a long time and provides stability and support throughout the novel.

Lute Fliegler: Lute Fliegler is a wealthy socialite who enjoys throwing extravagant parties. His affluence and success serve as a source of inspiration for Julian.

Irma Fliegler: Irma Fliegler, Lute's wife, becomes Julian's love interest and introduces him to the dangerous world beyond his privileged bubble.

Grace Larkin: Grace is a socialite within Julian's social circle, known for her active social life and propensity for affairs.

Ed Charney: Ed Charney is a gangster with a past connection to Julian. His criminal background and desire for revenge make him a menacing presence in Julian's life.

Ann Chapin: Ann becomes Julian's mistress, fueling his self-destructive behavior and contributing to his downfall.

Hoppy Grant: Hoppy is one of Julian's employees, dedicated to his work and genuinely concerned about Julian's well-being.

Al Grecco: Al Grecco, a dangerous gangster, threatens Julian's life and brings danger to his doorstep.

Emily Hahn: Emily is a socialite who frequently attends the same parties as Julian and is familiar with his circle.

Joe Reilly: Joe, Harry Reilly's brother, becomes intertwined in Julian's reckless decisions and suffers the consequences.

Ralph Hopkins: Ralph, another wealthy socialite from Gibbsville, provides additional insight into the upper-class society that Julian aspires to be a part of.

Character Arcs

Julian English: Julian's character arc is a tragic one. As the story progresses, he becomes more self-destructive, engaging in dangerous behavior and having multiple affairs. Eventually, his recklessness leads to his own demise.

Caroline English: Caroline's character remains relatively consistent throughout the novel. She is portrayed as a loyal and patient wife, standing by Julian despite his flaws and destructive behavior.

Harry Reilly: Harry does not experience much of an arc in the novel. He remains a stable and supportive friend to Julian, offering advice and assistance whenever possible.

Lute Fliegler: Lute's character also remains fairly consistent, representing success and wealth. He serves as a symbol of the life that Julian desires and aspires to achieve.

Irma Fliegler: Irma's character evolves from being one-half of a wealthy couple to becoming Julian's love interest. Her actions contribute to Julian's downfall and add a layer of complexity to the story.

Grace Larkin: Grace represents the promiscuity of the upper-class society in Gibbsville. Her character's arc is brief but plays a role in Julian's self-destructive behavior.

Ed Charney: Ed Charney's character arc centers around seeking revenge on Julian for past actions. His menacing presence heightens the tension and danger surrounding Julian.

Ann Chapin: Ann's arc follows her descent from vulnerability to manipulation and remorse. Her actions ultimately contribute to Julian's self-destruction.

Hoppy Grant: Hoppy's character remains consistent as a loyal and caring employee, trying to protect Julian from himself.

Al Grecco: Al Grecco's character arc revolves around his pursuit of revenge and the threat he poses to Julian's life.

Emily Hahn: Emily serves as a minor character, with no significant character arc.

Joe Reilly: Joe's character arc is minimal. He becomes unintentionally involved in Julian's destructive decisions, suffering the consequences.

Ralph Hopkins: Ralph's character provides additional insights into the upper-class society but experiences no significant arc.


  • Julian and Caroline's relationship is complicated due to Julian's infidelity and reckless behavior, but Caroline remains loyal to him throughout.
  • Julian and Lute's relationship is fraught with envy and aspiration, as Julian yearns for Lute's success and lifestyle.
  • Julian and Irma's affair adds fuel to his self-destructive behavior, leading to dire consequences for both.
  • Julian's affair with Grace exemplifies the promiscuous nature of the upper class in Gibbsville.
  • Julian's relationships with gangsters Ed Charney and Al Grecco introduce danger and suspense into the storyline.
  • Harry Reilly's friendship with Julian remains steadfast despite Julian's erratic behavior.
  • Hoppy Grant's relationship with Julian showcases loyalty and concern for Julian's well-being.
  • Joe Reilly becomes entangled in Julian's dangerous decisions, highlighting the impact Julian's actions have on others.

In "Appointment in Samarra," the characters play pivotal roles in driving the narrative forward, highlighting the complexities of the upper-class society and the consequences of self-destructive behaviors. O'Hara masterfully crafts a cast of multifaceted characters whose interactions and arcs contribute to the tragic tale at the heart of the novel.