The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Born on Mars, the youngest of five children of unsuccessful Martian colonists from Earth, Bron left home at fifteen to become a male prostitute catering to older women, and it is thus that he first learns to respond according to the type and power of the person he encounters. This thinking in types leads to Bron’s occupation on Triton as a metalogician checking computer outcomes; it also leads to Bron’sweaknesses as a person—he is continually pinning labels on people, making them his inferiors: The Spike is a woman, sometimes a “bitch”; Lawrence is an old homosexual or queer; Sam is a black. In this life of types, Bron is either dominating someone or that someone is dominating him. Types exercise a tyranny over Bron, as he continually worries about correct behavior in society, whether in space travel, eating at a restaurant, or meeting a potential lover. Desperate to know the type of a person, Bron has no knowledge of the individual within the type, no sympathy for others. A devoted fan of ice operas, Bron is forever separating his fellowman into the ice-opera equivalent of the cowboys and the Indians, or the good guys and the bad guys.

The Spike, or Gene Trimbell, is described by Bron as the wholesome, healthy brat of Ganymede ice-farmers “living the romantic life as a theatrical producer in the swinging, unlicensed sector of the city.” This description, however, fails to account for The Spike’s theatrical creativity in directing and...

(The entire section is 529 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Bron Helstrom

Bron Helstrom, a metalogician from Mars. Bron is an attractive, tall, blond, curly-haired man, with one gold-inlaid eyebrow; the other eyebrow is the normal hairy type, though it grows so constantly that it has to be trimmed regularly, giving it a rough, rumpled look. As a youth, Bron was a prostitute on Mars, and he has always been highly sexed. He is an indifferent socializer, “emotionally lazy”; people become his friends almost by default, with Bron not really playing an active role in developing the relationships. When he meets the Spike, however, he meets his match. Her rejection of him completely undermines his emotional world. His life changes radically as he undergoes a sex change and as he develops the capacity to care about other people’s feelings.

Gene Trimbell

Gene Trimbell, also called The Spike, a director and producer of, and actress in, “microtheater for unique audiences.” the Spike is a big-boned, thirty-four-year-old woman with whom Bron falls in love after seeing one of her shows. It is her bluntness in a letter to Bron that motivates him to change his life, though he at first denies the validity of her criticisms of him.


Lawrence, one of Bron’s only real friends. Lawrence is a seventy-four-year-old homosexual originally from South Africa, which he left because of the repression of human rights there. Lawrence helps Bron after he...

(The entire section is 425 words.)