49 pages 1 hour read

Richard Powers


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2021

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Character Analysis

Theo Byrne

Theo Byrne is a scientist, a father, and a widower. He narrates Bewilderment, describing his efforts in raising his son after the death of his wife while also pursuing his career as a scientist. Many of Theo’s problems began when his wife died, and the grief is still palpable every day. Theo’s feelings toward his wife, Alyssa, are complex. While he loved her deeply, he can’t dismiss his worry that she had an affair with her friend, Martin Currier. Theo even suspects that Robin might be Currier’s son rather than his own. However, with Alyssa dead, Theo has no recourse. He can’t confront Alyssa or change anything about the past. Theo’s identity as a widower echoes humanity’s experience of the climate collapse that the book describes: He looks lovingly to the past but can’t change or interrogate anything. He can only experience it in the present and endure the inevitable difficulty in the future.

As a single parent trying to raise a son who is neurodivergent, Theo is desperate to be a good father but worries that he makes many mistakes. As a result, he constantly second-guesses himself and overcorrects his behavior. He wants to be honest with Robin, but hides difficult, hurtful truths from him because he worries about how Robin will react.