Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Kris Kelvin

Kris Kelvin, a scientist in his early thirties who has just arrived at the Solaris station. Kelvin descends from space to find that the experimental work station he has reached is in chaos. He feels fearful and disoriented when he discovers that his former teacher, Gibarian, has just committed suicide and that the station’s two other scientists appear to be insane: Snow and Sartorius often hide in their rooms and speak in a cryptic and paranoid fashion. After waking from a much-needed sleep, Kelvin finds himself confronted with the reincarnation of his girlfriend, Rheya, who committed suicide ten years earlier, after he had left her. Although he is repulsed by this replica of a past love, he also appreciates the opportunity to expiate his guilt over her death and continue, if only in a sham, the experience of their relationship. As he talks to the other scientists, reads books in the station’s library, and performs experiments, he gradually comes to understand that she is a projection of his own memories created by the planetary entity he has come to study. When she dissolves at the novel’s end, he is left with the desire to get her back again but has little hope that this will occur.


Solaris, the protoplasmic creature that covers the planet of the same name. For more than a hundred years, Earth missions have attempted to understand this multibillion-ton gelatinous oceanic entity. Although the myriad shapes that form on this global creature suggest sentience, no previous attempts at communication have been successful. Hundreds of theories have attempted to account for this...

(The entire section is 674 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

At the beginning of the novel Kris Kelvin is a confident and capable scientist who comes to Solaris convinced that he knows everything about the planet that can be known through existing knowledge and technology. In the chaos which he encounters in the station, he stands in contrast to Snow and Sartorius, who clearly have become unhinged by their experience. Kelvin’s devotion to the rational ideals of science is so great that when he proves that the visitors exist, he almost wishes that, instead, he had found that he was merely insane.

By the end of the novel Kelvin has achieved an essentially tragic wisdom. For too long, he had managed to conceal his responsibility for Rheya’s suicide even from himself, repressing his own emotions, which she embodied. Ironically, one of his specialties is psychology, but his knowledge of the human mind does not equip him for what he encounters on Solaris. He has lived since Rheya’s death with a deep sense of guilt which he has submerged along with his own emotions. The ocean brings this out and gives it shape in the form of the Phi-creature “Rheya.” Kelvin’s relationship to this creature is, in this sense, that of the conscious, rational mind to the unconscious mind. Just as Kelvin, in a sense, killed his wife, Rheya, so he kills the first Rheya sent to him by the ocean, and the suicide of his wife is repeated in the suicide of the second Rheya. The effect of this confrontation is his realization of the value...

(The entire section is 466 words.)