Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Peter Kwinto

Peter Kwinto (KWIHN-toh), a young intellectual and journalist who writes for the Polish Workers’ Party. Although he is of Italian descent, Peter was reared in Poland under his mother’s guidance, and he is in Warsaw when the Polish underground rebels against the Nazis. Peter is disillusioned when the Soviet army fails to support the Warsaw uprising, and he watches, helpless and in shock, as the Germans obliterate his hometown. After World War II is over, the Soviet Union is allowed to occupy Poland, and Peter becomes angry with himself for succumbing to the new Communist government, which he despises. Finally, by interpreting a recurring nightmare, Peter understands his apparent powerlessness against the new party by associating it with his father’s death. When Peter was a young boy, his father was killed in a war against Russia; as an adult, Peter realizes that he has the same fear for himself. That insight causes him to leave Poland and flee to France.

Stefan Cisovski

Stefan Cisovski (sih-SOV-skih), a cadet officer in the Home Army of the Polish underground. He is nicknamed Seal because of his swimming expertise. He eventually escapes from Warsaw by crawling through the sewer system. Although he manages to survive the war, he is guilt-ridden for abandoning a wounded friend and for having a brief affair. He believes that everything comes too late, when it is no longer valuable, but he nevertheless helps his commander...

(The entire section is 632 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Peter Kwinto appeared destined to become a member of the bourgeois literary establishment in his native land. He had, for example, written a doctoral dissertation on French poetry and had received government grants enabling him to reside in France to pursue his research on the writings of Paul Valery. Setting Kwinto apart from most other members of his social class, however, is a staunch commitment to the principles of social justice. Although deeply disturbed by the totalitarian character of the postwar Polish regime, he is by no means immune to the psychological gratifications derived from the exercise of power. The turning point for Kwinto comes when he tells a dream he has had to a friend and confidante. The dream, in essence, involves Kwinto’s encounter with a kindly figure whom he at first mistakes for God the Father but later correctly identifies as Joseph Stalin. The dream has a twofold significance. First, it underscores the fact that Kwinto, as an apostate Catholic, is in danger of succumbing to a blind faith in a secular father figure. Second, it reflects Kwinto’s ambivalent attitude toward his own father, a man of firm anti-Communist convictions who was killed during the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1920. Teresa interprets the dream as a warning and urges Kwinto to leave Poland as soon as possible.

Wolin, like Kwinto, had been thoroughly indoctrinated with bourgeois cultural values in his youth. Despite...

(The entire section is 553 words.)