The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The brilliant but contentious Dr. Jeremy Stone, the thirty-six-year-old leader of the research project to find the source of the mysterious disease and its cure, has recently won the Nobel Prize for his work on bacteria. Stone was one of the scientists responsible for the Scoop project; he is ironically chosen to solve the problems that his brainchild originated. Stone is a tireless worker and is devoted to his team members and to the project.

Dr. Peter Leavitt is a man with a secret. Even though the scientists have to pass rigorous physical examinations before beginning work, Leavitt successfully hides his epilepsy. Finally, exhaustion and the blinking lights of the computer console bring on a seizure. Leavitt is left with the guilty knowledge that his duplicity might have caused the research project to fail. This seizure, incidentally, prevents Leavitt from noticing the one way in which the bacteria are vulnerable. The incident is only one of several unfortunate coincidences on which the plot entirely depends. Had Leavitt not gone into seizure, he would have discovered the weak spot of the bacteria and the menace would have been ended.

Just as Leavitt is wrong in trying to hide his condition, Dr. Charles Burton is careless in his scientific method. As the narrator observes, if Burton had only thought to perform an autopsy on the brains of certain research animals being exposed to the bacteria, perhaps the answer to the puzzle would have come...

(The entire section is 578 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Jeremy Stone

Jeremy Stone, a professor of bacteriology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a Nobel Prize winner, a lawyer, and a federal government consultant whose paper on the possibilities of a bacterial or viral invasion led to his Project Wildfire, a $22 million underground containment laboratory in the Nevada desert. It is at this laboratory that any extraterrestrial enemy is to be studied and countermeasures developed. Stone’s papers on bacteriology and mutant reversion have led him to be compared to Albert Einstein. His insistence on a nuclear device to destroy the lab if the alien disease threatens to escape is the key to the project and to the plot. He is a thin, balding man with a prodigious memory, a sense of humor, and an overpowering impatience that leads him to interrupt speakers and to finish conversations. Four times married, this imperious man alienates colleagues but is unquestionably an intellectual power. Stone views the disaster at Piedmont, Arizona, as a confusing but challenging puzzle and the survivors as the central clues.

Peter Leavitt

Peter Leavitt, a clinical microbiologist and epidemiologist specializing in parasitology. He is the chief of bacteriology at the same hospital as Hall and responsible for recruiting Hall. Leavitt’s research, conducted worldwide, is famous, but ill health made him give up research abroad. He suffers from epilepsy and is hypnotized by blinking lights. This carefully hidden vulnerability has potentially disastrous...

(The entire section is 627 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

There are several minor characters, such as Lieutenant Roger Shawn, the finder of the Scoop satellite, who exist primarily to create a...

(The entire section is 682 words.)