The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Much of the sense of disparity in the novel results from the incongruity inherent in the person of the narrator, who insists that everything in iDEATH is exactly as it should be—the people gentle, pleasant, and tolerant. Despite the narrator’s insistence that iDEATH is a stable Utopia, however, many of the things that happen are fraught with pain and violence. Balancing the easygoing and vegetarian people with their light chores and flower-filled parades are the man-eating tigers, the burning of the mutilated corpses of inBOIL and his gang, Margaret’s suicide, and the emptiness felt by the narrator but never named.

Indeed, the narrator never really names anything, even himself. In chapter 3, the narrator invites the reader to do the naming: “My name depends on you. Just call me whatever is in your mind.” Though the narrator clearly plays the role of poet-seer, he came upon his vocation by accident. He was not good at anything else, though he had tried several occupations. It is Charley who suggests that the narrator write a book. Margaret’s excursions into “The Forgotten Works” disturb the narrator so greatly that he cannot cope with his feelings for her. Nor is the narrator’s restlessness assuaged by his liaison with Pauline. He remains an insomniac and nightwalker throughout the novel. Thor’s day is his favorite—black, silent, and long.

Margaret is the only character in the novel who exhibits what one would normally call the signs of an active and curious mind. Her visits to “The Forgotten Works” and her continuing conversations with inBOIL, however,...

(The entire section is 655 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, who has no conventional name; he tells the reader that his name might be anything that the reader happens to think of or any experience that the reader may remember. He seems to be in his late twenties or thirties and lives in the gentle fantasy community iDEATH, where the main activities are making things out of watermelon sugar, enjoying the company of the other citizens of the town, and walking about enjoying the sights, which include many statues of vegetables; many rivers, some of which are only a few inches wide; and the tombs of the dead, which are lighted with foxfire and which lie at the bottoms of the larger rivers. The narrator is writing one of the first books to be written in iDEATH in many years. He is unusual because he enjoys walking at night, an activity in which no one else in the town engages except a girl whom the narrator occasionally sees walking at night with a lantern. When he was a child, his parents were eaten by tigers, but the last tiger was killed some time ago, and the trout hatchery was built on the ashes of the animal’s remains. The narrator once had a girlfriend named Margaret; his new girlfriend is named Pauline.


Margaret, the narrator’s previous girlfriend, also in her late twenties or early thirties. She has a habit of stepping on the one board of the bridge leading to the narrator’s house that makes a noise when it is stepped on. No one...

(The entire section is 581 words.)