Bud in Bud, Not Buddy

Instructor: Mary Evans

Mary has taught elementary school for six years and has a master's degree in education.

One of the reasons we love books is that we begin to feel like we know (and perhaps love or hate!) the characters as we learn about them. In this lesson we will analyze the character, Bud, from 'Bud, Not Buddy.'

Analyzing Characters: What's the Point?

In order to really understand and enjoy a good book, good readers often analyze, or think really deeply, about the characters in the book. Analyzing a character can help us imagine the character as we read, see how the character shapes the story, and understand their part in the story's conflicts.

Characters may begin as rough outlines, and good readers get a clearer picture as they read and gather information about them.
character silhouette

Imagining Bud

Bud Caldwell is the protagonist, or main character, in the book, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. In order to imagine him, we need to know what he is like on the inside and on the outside. The author gives us clues about both!

Bud is a poor, skinny, African American boy living in Michigan during the Great Depression. He is ten years old, but we know his mother died when he was six, and he became a ward of the state. He carries what little he has that reminds him of her in a beat-up suitcase tied with twine. In the beginning of the story, Bud is dressed in worn out, tattered clothing; but in Chapter 11 Lefty Lewis's family kindly gives him some hand-me-downs that are in much better condition.

On the inside, Bud is clever and determined. We know Bud is clever because of his Rules and Stuff for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar out of Yourself. When we're reading the rules, we have to laugh because he has a funny way of expressing himself. However, we also know his rules are mostly true and reveal a lot about his past experiences, many of which were very painful. His rules show what he has learned from those situations. We know he is determined because he will literally risk his life in order to accomplish his goal of finding Herman E. Calloway, who Bud thinks is his father.

Understanding how Bud Shapes the Story

As the protagonist, Bud pushes most of the action in the story. The book follows him on his quest to find Herman E. Calloway. Not only does he need the love and emotional support family can provide, but it is also a matter of survival. Life was tough for an orphan during the Great Depression! The main events in the book - like him running away from the Amoses, attempting to catch a train in Hooverville, and trying to walk from Flint to Grand Rapids - all happen because Bud chooses to do these things. As a character, Bud's job is to move the story along!

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