Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Thomas Dilbin

Thomas Dilbin, the shy, young narrator of his boyhood in a remote corner of Lithuania. An only child left by his parents to live with his grandparents, Thomas is lonely and consoles himself with the wonders of sky, river, and forest that surround him. His environment is a wondrous one in which pagan traditions still hold prominence under a Catholic surface. He soon realizes, however, that his heritage as a member of a Polish landowning family has set him apart from his own countrymen, zealous for the liberation of Lithuania and increasingly hostile to those whom they consider their oppressors.

Casimir Surkont

Casimir Surkont, Thomas’ grandfather. Although a member of the Polish gentry, he eschews the traditional occupations of hunting and riding to concentrate on his garden. A lover of peace, he is criticized frequently for his tolerance of and sympathies toward the Lithuanians.


Baltazar, a forester on lands belonging to the Surkonts. Tortured by his senseless killing of a soldier and driven by a black, incoherent dissatisfaction that is destroying his life, Baltazar turns to drink. His manic outbursts and sporadic violence cause others to believe that he is possessed by a devil. In a final act of demonic rage, he destroys all that he has worked for and forces his neighbors to hunt him down.

Romuald Bukowski

Romuald Bukowski (ROHM-wahld bew-KOW-skee), Thomas’ idol and initiator into the world of the forest. Thomas tries to imitate him in all ways, and his failure to duplicate the hunter’s prowess is the first great tragedy of his young life. At first, Romuald is flattered...

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The Issa Valley The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

One of the most important aspects of Czesaw Miosz’s method of characterization is that Thomas is the only character who really changes or develops. This, however, does not mean that the characterization is not successful. His portrayal of Grandfather Surkont is masterful; Miosz uses physical characteristics and sounds to portray him. The two grandmothers are also impressively and differently characterized. Grandmother Surkont is indifferent to everything but herself and her immediate comforts, while Grandmother Dilbin seems to be involved in everything.

Balthazar is the most important and interesting of the peasant characters. He actively feels the presence of the demons as they take over and control his actions. He is not a typical peasant but a complicated and divided character who cannot decide whether to follow the traditional ways or rebel and preserve his land and cottage. This division destroys him. Romuald Bukowski is a typical character; he is the independent male who cares for such masculine pursuits as hunting and fishing. Yet Miosz does reveal other aspects of Romuald’s character; he is very gentle when he teaches Thomas how to hunt, and he is understanding when Thomas fails. He also shows that he is not a prisoner of his class when he marries a poor woman, although the motivating factor in his decision is that the new wife will allow him to continue his male pursuits and comforts.