The most important characters in the short story “People-Watching” by Julia Gray are Paul, Kajsa and Paul’s sister, Jemima (nicknamed “Turtle”), who is an absent character.
Paul is the protagonist of the story, much of the narrative being told from his point of view and focusing on his interactions and his attitude toward the two other characters. His characterisation is expressed both directly and indirectly through Paul’s thoughts and his background.
Paul’s outer characterisation reveals that he is an architecture student who is “tall and laconic” (l. 25). He did not grow up in London, where the action is set. The rest of his description is centred on the character’s inner characterisation.
The way he talks reveals that he is a man of few words, probably somewhat shy: ““Of course I care about people,” he says, his consonants rigid, like spilled beads.” (l. 95)
From his conversation with Kajsa and his thoughts about her, we can infer that he has conflicting feelings towards for her. One the one hand, he is attracted to her; he accepted her invitation to draw together because “he finds her alluring” (l. 55). However, her questions irritate him sometimes, as well as the girl’s persistence that he should start drawing people:
“I can’t do this,” he says.
“Why not?” asks Kajsa, leaning over. “It’s great! You should keep going!”
“I can’t, I can’t, I just can’t. It’s an invasion of privacy, what we’re doing. (ll. 114-116)
Kajsa is a secondary character in the short story, yet she is relevant because through her curiosity she manages to awake in Paul painful memories regarding his sister.
Kajsa’s outer characterisation reveals that she is a foreign – probably Swedish – student doing a...
The way Kajsa dresses suggests that she is an unconventional person. Other aspects of her inner characterisation reveal that she is a curious person, asking Paul all types of questions, but also an optimist and good at drawing:
Jemima Grover (Turtle)
Jemima Grover is the absent character in the short story. She is Paul’s dead sister, who was nicknamed Turtle. Jemima appears only in Paul’s memories and is thus only presented from his perspective.
We do not know much about the woman’s outer characterisation, but based on the fact that she had eating disorders, we can imagine that she experienced several physical changes,...
The narrative reveals that Turtle died when she was eighteen, in a roof collapse accident. The girl’s inner characterisation suggests she had been troubled psychologically, probably unable to adapt in society or to accept herself the way she was: “And then he’d hear the snuffle, the unworded choke that betokened a lost place, an unsafe place. And he’d go to find Mum and Dad, and he’d say, “I don’t think Turtle is all right,” ...” (ll. 149-151)