Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Elizabeth Hapgood

Elizabeth Hapgood, a thirty-eight-year-old British female intelligence operative. She is involved in a spy mission attempting to locate a mole or “sleeper” who is passing secrets to Russia. Her code name is “Mother,” although she is also addressed as “Betty” by her “sister” Celia. Hapgood is the mother of a son by Kerner, a German-Russian spy, and also has had a long-standing relationship with Blair and a lesser one with the enigmatic operative Ridley. The leading character in a geometrically complicated web of intrigue and contradictions, Hapgood, along with every other character in the shadowy world of spying, is a potential “joe,” the term for an operative who turns into a double or triple spy. Uncertainties multiply about whether her sister (also a Hapgood), who calls herself Celia, is really a sister, possibly a twin, or merely “Mother” in a double role. Torn between her two mother roles, she remains an enigmatic character whose conflict is resolved by the safety of her son and the intended return of Kerner to Russia.

Joseph Kerner

Joseph Kerner, a fortyish Russian scientist and spy who has been “turned” by Hapgood and, therefore, is her “joe.” He was born in Königsberg, the birthplace of philosopher Immanuel Kant. His triple-spy role is merely a working out of his intellectual gymnastics, which combine Kant’s philosophical ideas with current atomic theories. Those theories involve the random nature of life and, therefore, of spies, who are like the electron, which can be here and there at the same moment. The particle world, as a result, becomes the dream world of the spy. Like “Mother,” his real name, Joe, takes on the...

(The entire section is 708 words.)