Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Leonard (Lenny) Makepeace

Leonard (Lenny) Makepeace, also known as Leonid Tikhomirov (leh-oh-NIHD tih-khoh MIH-rov), a young bicycle repairman in the fictitious Russian city of Lyubimov. Lenny’s father was a cobbler who perished in World War II. His mother dotes on him, trying continually to fatten his lean, narrow-chested frame with cottage cheese. Lenny becomes obsessed with coming to power in Lyubimov because he thinks this will please Serafima Petrovna, the attractive local language teacher. He obtains power by the use of “mental magnetism,” a skill he acquired by reading a book written by Samson Samsonovich Proferansov, the philanthropist ancestor of Savely Kuzmich Proferansov, a Lyubimov librarian. After taking power, Lenny enforces a hypnotic utopia on the citizens of Lyubimov, protecting the city from outside authorities by means of a sort of mental camouflage. Lenny’s utopia embodies a naïve idealism, well-meaning but at variance with the many frailties of human nature. In the end, his control erodes, and he even commands certain unappreciative citizens to die in the interest of a public welfare that he defines. His friends and supporters desert him as the outside authorities retake the city by force. Lenny sneaks out of the city and into obscurity by hitching a ride on a freight train.

Savely Kuzmich Proferansov

Savely Kuzmich Proferansov (sah-VYEH-lee kewz-MIHKH proh-feh-RAN-sov), the Lyubimov municipal librarian and the intermittent narrator of the novel’s events. A widower with a bald spot and a grown daughter, Savely befriends Lenny Makepeace, suggesting that Lenny involve himself in reading as solace for Serafima Petrovna’s lack of affection. When Lenny’s reading results in his taking control of the city, Savely is elevated to become his official historiographer. Savely’s writing, however, is openly influenced by the will of his disembodied ancestor, Samson Samsonovich...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

While The Makepeace Experiment, as a satire on utopian ideals, depicts the conflict between ideology and reality, it does so through its portrayal of conflicts between individualized characters who never become merely representations of abstract ideas; nor does the novel present its characters as morally one-dimensional, simply good or bad. The protagonist of the central struggle, Lenny Makepeace, does at times embody the single-minded fervor of the utopian reformer (a character criticized in the nineteenth century by Fyodor Dostoevski and in the twentieth century by Yevgeny Zamyatin); nevertheless, Lenny is also a complex and contradictory figure. His zeal is essentially benevolent, but in spite of his generosity, he cannot see that the people do not really want an ideal state. His love for Serafima is apparently genuine, but he easily forgets her while working on his programs. His jealousy contradicts all of his assumptions about how easily people can be controlled, for he cannot control either Serafima’s past or his own irrational behavior.

The main narrator, Savely Proferansov, suffers from other contradictions, embracing both a smug rationalism and a cautious superstitiousness, wanting to write an important history and yet fearful of offending the authorities; he is also prone to hypocrisy, moralizing but self-serving, loyal to Lenny but only while Lenny is clearly in charge. In these and other ways he represents many of the forces in the...

(The entire section is 595 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

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