Ice Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Anna Kavan

First published: 1967

Genre: Novel

Locale: Probably Northern Europe

Plot: Surrealism

Time: The near future

The narrator, an itinerant soldier and explorer who is ruled by an obsession with a young woman, known only as the girl. He returns home from the tropics, ostensibly to investigate rumors of an impending emergency but actually to pursue this obsession he only dimly understands. The narrator suffers from headaches, insomnia, and horrible dreams, which he has come to enjoy, of the girl's death and destruction. Seeking to protect the girl from her husband and the warden, he actually victimizes her as well. Sadistic and abusive, feeling that only he has the right to inflict pain on her, he loses interest once she is conquered and regains it only when she eludes him once more. He feels a close kinship with the ruthless warden, an identification so strong that he considers them to be identical twins, or even more strongly, “like halves of one being.”

The girl, a childlike, vulnerable young woman. Thin and fragile, with pale skin, large dark eyes, and silver-white hair, the girl is timid and highly sensitive. Kept in a permanent state of subjugation, first by her mother and later by the husband, the narrator, and the warden, she is the perfect victim. Although continually in flight from the three men and the ice, she is always recaptured, and she seems as resigned to her fate as victim as she is to the imminent destruction of the world. Only when she finally confronts the narrator about his abusive behavior does she have a chance to break the cycle of victimization.

The warden, a ruthless man possessing great political, military, and personal power. Like the narrator, he pursues and abuses the girl. The warden is a handsome, tall, yellow-haired man with an athletic build and arrestingly bright blue eyes. Arrogant but extremely intelligent, he has a dominant personality. Described as “a born ruler” and “a law unto himself,” the warden grows in stature and importance as the world deteriorates, rising from local to national and finally to global prominence. Although charming when it suits his purpose, he has a total disregard for the feelings of others and is selfish, treacherous, and cruel. The strong sense of identity the narrator feels with the warden leads to the almost certain conclusion that the warden and the narrator (and the husband) represent different aspects of the same character.

The husband, an artist who is married to the girl. A massive man, he is moody and sardonic, alternately charming and quarrelsome. He always has an abundance of money but never appears to do any work, leading the narrator to suspect that he is something other than he seems and to the suspicion that the husband and the warden are indeed the same character.

Categories: Characters