Study Guide

Maya Toitovna in Red Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson

Maya Toitovna

Maya, Maya, Maya… what can we say about Maya? She's Maya. That about nails it. Okay, we guess we can go a little deeper, but it's difficult since Maya seems like a different person to so many people. About half of our discussion on masks over in the "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" section is dedicated to Maya, if that tells you anything.

Like a Rollercoaster, Baby

Maya's at the center of a love triangle that includes Frank and John—one that can sometimes seem a little too, let's say, high school for spacefaring astronauts.

It's suggested by Michel that Maya's relationship with men might stem from a cultural desire to both find a "lost father" (4.2.3) and also destroy said father. On the other hand, Nadia wonders if Maya's love affairs aren't her "covering her tracks, practicing another manipulation" (3.4.80). Maya herself even admits that part of her attraction to John is "political" as though she's "acting in response to imperatives stronger than her own desires" (2.4.74). Huh.

This mishmash of information leads us to two conclusions about Maya. First, she's bipolar, and we aren't using that term lightly—she truly suffers from bipolarism. So although she's filled with emotions, she can't really pin down what those emotions mean, what she can do to satisfy those emotions, leaving others in the dark as well. In short, she doesn't really even know what she wants.

Which brings us to—

The Emotion Train

All aboard! Yes, Maya is an emotional wreck with a fickle personality… But what if that's the point?

Maya's kind of a foil for, well, everyone. When you're surrounded by scientists, engineers, and explorers, emotions can kind of take a backseat to reason and logic. While many of the First Hundred colonists are passionate about their work and ideas, we wouldn't say they are emotional about them. Even Ann's anger over terraforming takes the form of a scientific endeavor or social debate versus a pure outpouring of emotion.

But Maya embraces her emotions, even if she can't properly identify them. For example, after Frank dies, Sax asks her if she wants a sedative. She tells him, "they're my feelings, they're my men, do you think I'm a coward, do you think I would want to be a zombie like you!" (8.2.124). And she's right: it does take courage to face your own emotions in such a way rather than feed them through a diluting outlet such as work or rational thinking.

And while Maya may be crippled at times by her emotions, other times she uses them to her advantage. Ann, Nadia, Michel, and the rest become emotionally and physically drained after their trek through the flooded canyon, but Maya is the one "who kept them going" (8.4.1). Because just like she can weather her feelings, she can weather other things as well. Girl's got stamina.

And that's Maya in our minds: an emotion-powered Wonder Woman.