The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Skinner’s characters are not complex. They do not develop very much, and they seem to exist simply as a way of convincing the reader that Skinner’s vision of a new world order could work in practice as well as in theory.

The ordinary residents of Walden Two, for example, are largely faceless creatures who serve almost as background scenery while Burris and his party take the tour of the facilities. Only slightly more developed are the two couples, Steve and Mary and Rogers and Barbara. Steve and Mary, who struggle briefly but then join the Walden Two community enthusiastically, seem to exist simply to prove that Frazier’s arguments and the experience of the Walden Two community would be irresistible to anyone with an open mind. Rogers is also clearly convinced of the utopia’s virtues, but he chooses not to join the community because his fiancée Barbara finds the experimental life uninviting. Thus, Rogers takes on the clichéd quality of a tragically misguided romantic lover, while Barbara remains almost as faceless as the regular residents of Walden Two.

More fleshed out as a character is Castle, the skeptical antagonist to Frazier and Frazier’s proselytizing speeches. Castle is clearly emotional, stubborn, combative, and inflexible. At times, Castle wavers in his combativeness and seems grudgingly convinced by Frazier’s arguments, which helps to make the merits of Walden Two seem more convincing for the reader. At other times,...

(The entire section is 514 words.)