Study Guide

Minor Characters in The City of Ember

By Jeanne DuPrau

Minor Characters

Arlin Froll

This "short, delicate-looking girl with a white-blond braid down her back" (3.5) is actually an expert in the Pipeworks. Doon gets paired with her on his first day of work, and she shows him the ropes. She's competent but not necessarily friendly, which seems to be a bit of a trend with Pipeworks laborers.

Arbin Swinn

This vegetable seller runs the Callay Street Vegetable Market and asks Lina to deliver a message to Clary in the greenhouse. He wants extra crates for his order that day: "two of potatoes and two of cabbages" (4.40). Apparently these are some of the most popular food items in Ember, even though they're on the bland side.

Annisette Lafrond

Annisette is the unfortunate recipient of a scolding message from Mrs. Polster, which Lina carries on her first day working as a messenger. We have to imagine that Ember is a tiny enough community that everyone is all up in each other's business, like it or not.

Chet Noam

One of Lina's classmates, Chet is among the first few to pick a job on Assignment Day. He gets electrician's helper, which is one of the city's better jobs. Chet's obviously happy to have it: "his wide face broke into a smile" (1.27). Given that he could've gotten stuck in the Pipeworks, we can't blame him for smiling.

The Children Who Find Lizzie's Cans

As Lina and Lizzie walk one evening, they pass a group of kids playing a game. When Lizzie spills her bag of groceries, the kids notice the cans rolling around: "Another was going toward the children, who were on their feet now, watching Lizzie's wild spider-like motions" (11.38). What they see next is pretty amazing:

There was a shout […] One of the children had picked up a can. "Look at this!" he cried, and the other children gathered around him. "Applesauce!" he said, and the children murmured, "Applesauce, applesauce," as if they had never heard the word before. (11.39)

To these kids, applesauce is a revelation, a mystery—and it's not one meant for them, since Lizzie was going to keep the cans all to herself. She lets the kids keep that can while putting up a false front about how she just found them in the back of some market. It's an unlikely story, but the kids seem too surprised to question it. If you'd lived a dreary life without applesauce, you'd be enraptured at its appearance, too.

Dr. Felinia Tower

As the community doctor, Dr. Tower has a lot on her hands. She brings people into the world and eases them out of it. Maybe this is why she looks stretched too thin: "Dr. Tower was a thin woman with uncombed hair and shadows under her eyes" (10.4). It sounds like the weight of responsibility is taking its toll on her.

Part of her job includes staying on top of the latest medical knowledge in Ember—or whatever passes for medical knowledge, at least. When Lina delivers a message to her, she sees in Dr. Tower's place "the skeleton of a person hanging against her living room wall, its bones all held in place with black strings" (2.55). Lina stares at this uncommon sight til Dr. Tower explains, "I study it […] I have to know how people are put together" (2.55). Which makes perfect sense, when you consider the kinds of accidents that could happen in the Pipeworks.

Dr. Tower comes to check out Granny when she falls ill, and advises Lina to feed her soup, give her water, and make sure she gets plenty of rest. But that's about all Dr. Tower can do. As she tells Lina, "But I can't promise to help her. I'm low on medicine" (10.6). It must be awful for a doctor to realize that they can't help all their patients due to a supply issue. Maybe that's part of what's eating Dr. Tower.

Edward Pocket

This "ancient" (8.13) guy is the Ember librarian. We're not sure exactly what role he serves, though, seeing as the library is poorly categorized and no one ever goes in there aside from Edward himself (and Doon, on a fact-finding mission).

Farlo Batten

This guy is head of the storerooms, and Lizzie has nicknamed him, rather rudely, "old Flab Face" (7.60). This doesn't paint a very nice picture of them, but according to Lizzie, he's also pretty mean, always harping on the clerks to come in on time and write more legibly.

Granny's Grandfather, a.k.a. the Seventh Mayor of Ember, Podd Morethwart

You'd hope that the mayor of a town would be honorable, but nope, no such luck with this guy. We're told that "the seventh mayor of Ember was less honorable than the ones who'd come before him, and more desperate" (The Instructions.13). So because he's dying of an illness going around, he steals the box to see if it contains a cure and "attack[s] it with a hammer" (The Instructions.13). He fails to get it open and dies before he can return the box to its hiding place, which just goes to show that the actions of one individual can have serious consequences for a whole community.

Even though he's related to Lina, when she sees a picture of him, she thinks he looks "quite dreary […] His cheeks were long and hollow, his mouth turned down at the corners, and there was a lost look in his eyes" (2.77). Being a traitor to your city must leave you with little time for primping.

Lister Munk

The Pipeworks director greets Doon on his first day of work, gets him a pair of boots and tool belt, and assigns him a tunnel to work in and a guide. He seems like a pretty efficient guy, and that's all we see of him. We do know, though, that he's into singing, since Doon mentions that Lister was in his bathroom practicing his role for the Singing (14.14), which is how Doon and Lina know they can sneak into the Pipeworks unnoticed.

Miss Thorn

This teacher is responsible for the graduating class of the Ember School. After delivering "her Last Day of School speech" (1.8), she has to wait for the mayor to arrive in order to distribute jobs, and she doesn't really look that happy about doing so: "Now, having run out of things to say, she was standing at her desk with her frayed shawl clasped around her shoulders" (1.8). Like everyone else in Ember, she's wearing old and worn clothes.

One good thing we can say about Miss Thorn is that she manages to protect Doon from the mayor's anger on Assignment Day: "Miss Thorn strode to Doon and put a hand on his shoulder" (1.52), and then she quietly tells him to sit down. Maybe she senses that the mayor isn't about to give Doon a cookie for displaying independent thinking skills. Or maybe she just wants to keep the peace. We'll never know for sure, as we don't see her after Assignment Day.

Mrs. Polster

This lady taught Lina's fourth-year class, and she seems pretty uptight. Here's what Lina remembers about the experience: "Mrs. Polster had charts on the walls for everything, with everyone's name listed. If you did something right, she made a green dot by your name. If you did something wrong, she made a red dot" (2.51). This, in her view, was an effective way to teach kids to do the right thing.

Mrs. Polster is Lina's second customer on her first day as a messenger, and she has Lina memorize and subsequently deliver a message telling someone that they were being naughty (but with fancier words). Sounds like Mrs. Polster needs a hobby.

Mrs. Sample

One of the menders of Ember, Mrs. Sample receives a message from Lina on her first day on the job. Lina notices that she "had to sleep on her couch because her entire bedroom, almost up to the ceiling, was crammed with clothes to be mended" (2.55). Since there's nowhere to buy new clothing, we can see where it'd be essential to have someone mend old clothing so it can be reused. Sounds like this lady could use a break, though.

Myla Bone

Myla, who works with Lizzie, apparently has really beautiful handwriting. The way Lizzie describes it, "it's got curly tails on the y's and the g's, and fancy loops on the capital letters. Of course Flab Face hates it, he says it's illegible" (7.77). It seems like there aren't many purely decorative things in Ember, like pretty writing or art in general.

Natty Prine

This old man has the distinction of being Lina's very first customer on her first day working as a messenger. He gives her a message to one of his buddies, telling him not to come for dinner since the stove is broken. The friend is not too pleased to hear this, characterizing Natty as an "Old turniphead" (2.49), which we filed away in our list of clever insults.

The Old Man in the Generator Room

Old "with a deeply lined brown face" (3.28), this guy works in the generator room when Doom sneaks in to try to figure out how the machine works. The old man is not thrilled, glaring at Doon and making "a shooting motion with his hand" (3.29). We can't blame him for being cranky; it's really loud in there, and it seems like a thankless task, trying to patch up that old beast of a machine.

Later, Doon catches up with him and asks how the generator works. The old man doesn't really have a good answer for him: "Our job is just to keep it from breaking down. If a part breaks, we got to put on a new one. If a part freezes up, we got to oil it… I been working on the generator for twenty years. It's always managed to chug along, but this year… The thing seems to break down every couple minutes" (3.36).

In the words of a guy who's spent his life working on the generator, nobody has any clue how it works, and it's just a question of when it'll break, not if it'll break. Yeah, that doesn't exactly spell sunshine and roses for Ember's future.

Orly Gordon

One of Lina and Doon's classmates, she lucks out on Assignment Day: "She got the job of building repair assistant, which was a good job for Orly. She was a strong girl and liked hard work" (1.29). We can see where growing up somewhere like Ember, where everyone needs to contribute to the city to make it run properly, would cause kids to grow up hard working.

Ravenet Parsons

This guy is the first person to receive a message from Lina on her very first day of working as a messenger. We get the impression that he's old (since he was to be old Natty Prine's dinner guest, and he's parked on a bench in a city square rather than working). He's also easily annoyed, saying in response to the news that Natty won't have him over after all: "Lazy old fleaface. He just doesn't feel like cooking" (2.49).

Redge Stabmark (Chief Guard)

This fellow is definitely cut out for guard duty, as he's "huge […] with a bushy black beard" who shouts even when it's unnecessary (2.84). Plus he grabs Lina's arm when she's on top of the Gathering Hall, even though it's pretty obvious that she has nowhere to go since hello, she's on top of a roof. Unnecessary roughness, anyone?

While taking Lina into custody, he utters the charming phrase, "Curiosity leads to trouble" (2.86), which may be true sometimes, but also sounds a lot like the words of a bitter old fart—which is exactly what he is.

Vindie Chance

This girl is one of Lina's friends in her class. We know this because "She gave Lina a big grin as she went back to her seat" (1.29) after choosing her job on Assignment Day. She has a reason to be happy—she's made a greenhouse helper, which is one of the more fun jobs available in Ember.