The role that language played in Babel-17 and that mythic patterns played in The Einstein Intersection is assigned to traditional sexual identities in Triton. In this novel, Delany explores the way in which one’s relationships, especially those dictated by the norms of society, determine one’s self-image. Triton depicts a sexual utopia existing in the year 2112 c.e., a society in which all forms of personal relationships are permitted.
Without any restrictions placed upon them, the inhabitants of this society are free to invent or develop whatever social and sexual identities they choose. Sex-change operations are common, as are “refixations,” procedures through which a person’s sexual orientation may be altered. The reader expects, at first, that this degree of personal freedom will be liberating, and it is liberating for most of the characters in Triton. For Bron, however, the novel’s central character, the unlimited choices available in his society create only a profound sense of discontent.
Bron is Delany’s first antihero. Self-centered, intolerant, and opinionated, he makes an unusual protagonist; Delany wants his reader not to identify with Bron. Like Kid Death in The Einstein Intersection, Bron cannot endure what is different, even in himself. While Kid Death’s hostility was directed outward, Bron’s intolerance has its greatest effects upon himself, providing the source of his unhappiness and alienation. Despite Bron’s best efforts (including, in the end, a sex-change operation and refixation), he is never able to overcome his limitations, and the novel ends with Bron still unhappy and disillusioned.
Triton thus contains Delany’s most complete commentary on the social effects of intolerance. Bron goes to extreme lengths to force himself and others into the sexual roles that he regards as right; however, Delany suggests that these sexual labels (and, by implication, any sorts of labels) can never bring one closer to understanding oneself or the identities of others.