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Our Cast of Characters

Thus far many of the characters we've heard about in the series are, well, not all that serious — Bugs, Mudbone, Lassie! There's nothing wrong with that. We often say we need to have more fun on NPR.

And each segment has pointed out the cultural significance of the character in question: How Mudbone's travels are resonant of the Great Migration; Bugs Bunny's role in WWII; the Lone Ranger to the rescue during the Depression.

Still, as the series goes on, we'll also look at characters who speak to more complex aspects of American history or human behavior or both. For example, Farai Chideya will discuss Huck Finn's Jim and his impact on both white and African-American literature; Scott Simon will examine the delusional Willy Loman; and Larry Abramson will look at the hubris of Captain Ahab.

Of course, underneath all great characters — even the funny ones — you often find something pretty profound. Even Cookie Monster has been called "the icon of the id."