Tarsem and Sae are the most important characters in the short story “Hollywood” by Bobby Nayyar, so we encourage you to focus on their characterisation. The other characters are secondary (Tarsem’s parents) or episodic (Manny) and help convey authenticity to the protagonist and show the way he relates to them.
The parents, for example, seem traditional and eager to see their son making something out of his life, while Manny is a typical male friend whom the narrator confides in.
Tarsem is the narrator and the protagonist of the story. He is a developing character because he realises what he wants to do in life after he meets young artist Sae with whom he has a brief affair.
He directly renders his outer characterisation from which we find out that he is a college graduate living with his parents and who has been unemployed for twelve months:
His inner characterisation is also conveyed with irony, both indirectly through actions and attitudes, and directly by the narrator himself or other characters.
For his mother, Tarsem is a “ladhla” (l. 13) or a spoiled son, and a “bescharum” (l. 160), which means scoundrel. These appellatives suggest that his mother both loves him and is occasionally disappointed by his lifestyle (having no job, going out to have one-night stands).
From the beginning of the short story, we find out that Tarsem loves going to the movies in old cinemas and that he uses this activity as a way of escaping the stress of being unemployed and of lacking a life purpose: “If there’s one thing I love about London, it’s that cinemas are still part of communities.” (l. 1); “Every second Tuesday I would go to the Jobcentre Plus on Mayes Road and sign on. No university course prepares you for that feeling. I’d sugar the pill by popping into the Hollywood after my visit.” (ll. 17-19)
Sae is the second important character in the story, who changes Tarsem’s life without even intending it.
Her outer characterisation suggests that she is a Japanese girl (the name and references to cities in Japan). Also, she studies art and draws, being deemed beautiful by the narrator:
Her inner characterisation reveals her to be a creative person, yet sad and out of place, similar to Tarsem: ““Maybe we’re not so different then. Maybe that’s what an artist is. Someone who thinks he is flying when he is really falling.”” (ll. 112-113)