Daniel Lewin is the main character who tries to find the truth about his parents executed for 'stealing' technology secretes for Russia. These events took place many years ago, but they are still important for Daniel who cannot overcome grief and depression. Doctorow depicts that Daniel has a happy family, son, beloved sister Susan, a good job and opportunities, but he cannot bear with the death of his parents. Daniel's quest is a search for truth and good name of his family accused in espionage. "Daniel" writes: "If justice cannot be made to operate under the worst possible conditions of social hysteria, what does it matter how it operates at other times" (Doctorow 1996, 56)
Through the characters of Daniel Lewin Doctorow unveils such important life stages as the process of becoming an 'adult' and new perception of self. In spite of the fact that Daniel is a mature person he is bound by memories and deep emotional experience. Doctorow describes that history and its examples become an important moral guide for Daniel to overcome life troubles and depression. In general, the author's emotions are mixed about moving beyond adolescence, because this new life stage deprives everyone of his ingenuousness.