Don Draper

Don Draper

    Mad Men
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Character Analysis

(Avoiding Spoilers)

Grew up... dismally, on a Depression-era farm in Illinois until his alcoholic father died and then in a Pennsylvania whorehouse where he was brought by his abusive stepmother. That’s when he was still Dick Whitman, son of a prostitute. No wonder he swapped dog tags – and identities – during the Korean War when a lieutenant named Don Draper died right next to him. Good-bye Dick Whitman, hello Don Draper.

Living... at 42 Bullet Park Road in Ossining, N.Y., with his wife Betty and two kids (so far), Sally and Bobby. Don met Betty when she was a model, and she’s the beautiful, wealthy WASP he’s always dreamed of as his wife. From the outside, they seem like the perfect couple. But as any advertising man knows, looks can be deceiving – and often they’re intended to be.

Profession... creative director at Madison Avenue (thus the “Mad” of the title) advertising agency Sterling Cooper. As a man who created his own entirely new identity that he successfully sells to the world every day, Don is a natural. His passionate speeches about how products and ad campaigns can evoke emotions such as love, longing and happiness consistently wow clients. But when he’s not pitching, he knows the score: “What you call ‘love’ was invented by guys like me... to sell nylons.”

Interests... alcohol, cigarettes, big steaks, and women. Hey, he’s a successful New York professional in the early 1960s. That’s just what a real man does, if he’s able. And Don is more than able.

Relationship Status... married, though not that happily. Betty is beautiful but not especially warm, with either Don or the kids. Of course Don is far from a perfect husband, as he saves much of his affection for a string of mistresses.

Challenge... keeping up appearances, both literally and figuratively. If people find out he’s not really who he says he is, his whole carefully constructed life could come crumbling down. That’s a lot of pressure.

Personality... charming, but guarded. Thanks to his unquestioned skill at his job, his good looks and his outward confidence, both men and women are naturally drawn to him. But good luck getting close. As co-worker Harry Crane puts it: “Draper? Who knows anything about that guy? Nobody’s ever lifted that rock. He could be Batman for all we know.” 


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