Professor Marya Vladimirovna Kovaleva
Professor Marya Vladimirovna Kovaleva (vlah-dih-MIH-rov-nah koh-VAH-lyeh-vah), the director of a computer institute. A single, middle-aged woman with two sons, she is a sympathetic and competent professional who finds time to pursue her own mathematical research, to organize social and cultural events, and to run the household. An intellectual, she reads English novels for recreation. Her decision to do something about her appearance takes her to a hairdressing salon, where she makes the acquaintance of an unusual hairdresser whose nonconformist attitudes arouse her curiosity and bring her back for regular visits.
Vitaly Plavnikov (vih-TAH-lee PLAV-nih-kov), a trainee hairdresser. The twenty-year-old Vitaly stands out because of his unconventional appearance and ideas, and because of his individualism in a society that stresses conformity. Reared partly in a children’s home, he never finished high school as a consequence of his father’s alcoholism and his stepmother’s strong religious beliefs. He wants eventually, however, to go to college to study dialectical materialism. Toward this end, he has devised a rigorous plan for his own intellectual development. He is interested in Marya’s advice and suggestions, so he becomes her regular...
(The entire section is 480 words.)