Characters in "The Silent Towns"
Walter Gripp is a man on a mission: for female companionship. He can never find it, and we suspect that's because he has totally unrealistic standards for women. In fact, he's kind of a jerk.
Gripp is a miner living in a remote part of Mars. He's a bit of an odd duck, doing things like actually paying for the sandwiches he makes for himself in an abandoned deli, and then making himself "a succulent filet carpeted with delicate mushrooms, imported dry sherry, and strawberries in wine." You get the sense that he's a guy who likes the finer things in life.
So it's no surprise that he has high standards when it comes to women, and he's not going to lower them even though Mars is basically abandoned: "[H]e walked to town once every two weeks to see if he could marry a quiet and intelligent woman" (5). Okay, fair enough, right? At least he's not looking for a pneumatic blonde.
Well, there's something strange about treating women like they're some sort of supply good you'd pick up along with your Ramen noodles and toilet paper. Gripp never finds his "quiet and intelligent woman"—as far as he is concerned, all the women he meets are loud and dumb.
Even though Gripp is essentially a comic figure (the last man on Mars, who runs away from the last woman), there's something romantic and tragic about his story, at least at first. He's so lonely that he talks to himself all the time. When he first hears Genevieve's voice, he goes on about how beautiful she must be (95-6). Still, at the end of the day it's no surprise that he spends the rest of his life alone.
Meet Genevieve. She's not a beautiful sight, at least not to Walter:
Her face … was round and thick, and her eyes were like two immense eggs stuck into a white mess of bread dough. Her legs were as big around as the stumps of trees, and she moved with an ungainly shuffle. Her hair was an indiscriminate shade of brown that had been made and remade, it appeared, as a nest for birds. She had no lips at all. (203)
Worse, she's eating cream chocolates and has a personality that Walter finds repellant in every way.
She enjoys being alone at first (apparently her family was a drag), but now she'd like to marry Gripp. We don't really get Selsor's thoughts and feelings, since the story is told from Gripp's point of view. She's mostly just an object for Gripp to think he wants at first and then to run away from. We are left to wonder if she's really so bad—or are Walter's standards just impossibly high?