Both fool and troublemaker, Agathon is characterized as a human wreck by Peeker at the beginning of the novel. Little more than a drunken derelict, the old man is filthy in both mind and body, a man who dines on garbage and entertains himself by making lurid suggestions to those who pass him by. Yet Peeker acknowledges him to be a man who is curiously compelling in personality, a man capable of inspiring discipleship and gathering listeners.
While Peeker cannot at first define the positive worth of the man he follows, the reader, privy to the obsessively filled prison parchments, hears with Peeker the stories in which the seer records his early education with Konan under Klinias, his childhood-friendship-turned-lifelong-love for Tuka, and his various assignations with Thayla, Iona, and countless others whose paths he crossed. As the stories unfold, the gap between the external personage of Agathon and the internal reality of the man narrows. With Peeker, the reader balances the weaknesses of the life with the brilliance of mind that enables the thinker to compare the compassionate justice of Solon with the stifling legality of Lykourgos and to see that all systems are finite.
What the reader learns about Agathon from his autobiographical chapters must be filtered through the sophisticated consciousness of a man accustomed to designing roles to be played to accomplish certain desired results. He cannot be trusted to portray himself or others as they actually are; rather, he portrays experience as he wishes it to be perceived. Peeker, on the other hand, writes his chapters out of the guileless innocence of youth. Much of the charm of his characterization comes from revelations that he does not know he has made. He believes that he must decide whether he will become a seer; the reader knows that he has already made that decision, that it is a part of the very fabric of his existence. He believes himself to hate Agathon and all that he has become; the reader realizes that he loves the man, that the seer...
(The entire section is 828 words.)