The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

It is almost fair to say that Ice has no characters. Certainly it is never clear how many there are. The girl’s husband appears to vanish after the first two chapters, but his threatening behavior in those is so like that of the warden later on that it is tempting to identify them especially as the warden reappears so often in different roles, places, and uniforms, always picked out, however, by his flashing blue eyes. Furthermore, as the novel progresses, the narrator becomes more and more uneasily aware that he and the warden are like each other, are perhaps identical twins. One cannot avoid the thought that they represent different fractions of the self, as it were an ego and an alter ego. Having gone so far and remembering that the author of the book is female one could even continue the thought and suggest that all the characters are fragments of one personality, the action of Ice taking place entirely in the mind.

Whether that is so, the following points can be made. There is something infantile about the girl. Though she is always perceived sexually, her thinness and paleness are insisted on to the point of morbidity. She is also until the very end invariably a victim, crushed by the men, trapped within walls of ice. She represents something thwarted but never quite destroyed; the “real me,” perhaps, the person one knows one might ideally have been. The narrator always tries to free and rescue this persona but almost always...

(The entire section is 419 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, an itinerant soldier and explorer who is ruled by an obsession with a young woman, known only as the girl. He returns home from the tropics, ostensibly to investigate rumors of an impending emergency but actually to pursue this obsession he only dimly understands. The narrator suffers from headaches, insomnia, and horrible dreams, which he has come to enjoy, of the girl’s death and destruction. Seeking to protect the girl from her husband and the warden, he actually victimizes her as well. Sadistic and abusive, feeling that only he has the right to inflict pain on her, he loses interest once she is conquered and regains it only when she eludes him once more. He feels a close kinship with the ruthless warden, an identification so strong that he considers them to be identical twins, or even more strongly, “like halves of one being.”

The girl

The girl, a childlike, vulnerable young woman. Thin and fragile, with pale skin, large dark eyes, and silver-white hair, the girl is timid and highly sensitive. Kept in a permanent state of subjugation, first by her mother and later by the husband, the narrator, and the warden, she is the perfect victim. Although continually in flight from the three men and the ice, she is always recaptured, and she seems as resigned to her fate as victim as she is to the imminent destruction of the world. Only when she finally confronts the narrator about his...

(The entire section is 462 words.)