62 pages 2 hours read

Saul Bellow

The Adventures of Augie March

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1953

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Chapters 1-5Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary

Content Warning: This section of the guide refers to the source text’s depiction of ableist ideas that were prevalent at the time that The Adventures of Augie March was written.

Augie March announces himself to the reader as “an American, Chicago born” (3). As a boy, he grows up in a house with his mother, his two brothers, and an elderly, unrelated boarder named Grandma Lausch. Augie’s older brother is named Simon, and his younger brother is named Georgie. Augie explains that Georgie has an intellectual disability, but he feels he can speak on his brothers’ behalf when saying that all three love their mother.

Grandma Lausch is nominally in charge of the household since Augie’s “meek” mother has been abandoned by the boys’ father. He occasionally sends money, but the family relies on charity and tricking the local social benefactors to get by. The Machiavellian, domineering Grandma Laush plays cards with a Hungarian neighbor named Mr. Kreindl and hosts representatives and caseworkers on behalf of the March family, arguing why they should be treated better. Augie explains that she is “impossible to satisfy” as she runs the household with an autocratic yet endearing flair (7).