Karim is a half-Indian teenager coming of age in the 1970s. At the beginning of the novel, he is interested in following fashion trends, trying drugs, and having as much sex as he can. He… read analysis of Karim
Dad is a middle-aged Indian man. He's exceptionally proud of his wide and hairy chest, though he's very short. He came to England in the 50s with his best friend, Anwar. Though he technically… read analysis of Haroon (Dad)
Eva is, at first, an upper-middle class social climber. She is very interested in what Karim reads and she wears colorful clothing. Mum finds Eva distasteful and Karim can't quite tell if he agrees with… read analysis of Eva
Charlie is Eva's son and Karim's crush and idol as a teen. Charlie is a year older than Karim and is described as being exceptionally handsome. However, Karim soon learns that despite Charlie's charm and… read analysis of Charlie
Changez is Jamila's husband. Though he came highly recommended by one of Anwar's cousins in Bombay, Changez defies all expectations. While Anwar wanted a strapping young man capable of working in his grocery store and… read analysis of Changez
Anwar came to London in the 1950s from India with his best friend Haroon to attend college. After marrying Jeeta he opened a toy store, which she soon convinced him to turn into a grocery… read analysis of Anwar
Matthew Pyke is one of the most prestigious theatre directors in London. He works in a freeform style in which he asks his actors to develop characters, and then employs a writer to write a… read analysis of Matthew Pyke
Mum is Karim's mother. She's a plump and generally miserable Englishwoman, though she went to art school and enjoys drawing. She works in a shoe shop. Mum is devastated when her husband, Haroon, leaves… read analysis of Mum
Jeeta is Anwar's wife. She was a princess in India who joined Anwar in London after their lavish wedding. Jeeta helps Anwar with the grocery store and cooks Karim all his favorite foods when he… read analysis of Princess Jeeta
Shadwell is a regular guest at Eva's parties from the beginning; Karim meets him at his first party and refers to him as the man in corduroy. Karim finds Shadwell boring beyond all belief, though… read analysis of Shadwell
Terry is a Welshman who plays the snake Kaa in Shadwell's production of The Jungle Book. He's about 40, an ardent Trotskyite, and possibly attracted to men. Karim attempts to seduce him throughout the… read analysis of Terry
Eleanor is a beautiful but troubled actress that Karim meets through Pyke. She's in the same production as Karim, and Karim decides to pursue her when he learns that she worked with a performance… read analysis of Eleanor
Uncle Ted is Jean's husband. At the beginning of the novel he owns a central heating business, which is questionably successful. Regardless, he and Jean can afford to live in the upscale neighborhood of Chiselhurst… read analysis of Uncle Ted
Allie is Karim's little brother. His real name is Amar, but he goes by Allie to avoid "racial trouble." He's four years younger and when they're young, Karim mostly ignores Allie. When Mum and Dad… read analysis of Allie
Auntie Jean is Mum's sister and Ted's husband. She and Ted live in a rich suburb and Karim loathes both Jean herself and having to visit her. Jean feels as though it's her responsibility to… read analysis of Auntie Jean
Shinko is a Japanese sex worker that Changez employs when it becomes clear that Jamila will never go to bed with him. Their relationship persists for the entirety of the novel and though Changez continues… read analysis of Shinko
Marlene is Matthew Pyke's wife. She and Pyke are very open and adventurous sexually, and they regularly participate in group sex events all over the world. When she expresses interest in having sex with Karim… read analysis of Marlene
Heater is Eleanor's "main guardian" and Karim's rival for her affection. He's extremely fat and ugly and though he's a road sweeper, he gets tickets to most of the London productions. Heater represents the hardworking… read analysis of Heater
Tracey is a young black actress in Pyke's production. Karim observes that Tracey spends a lot of time worrying about what it means to be a black woman, and she objects to Karim's portrayal of… read analysis of Tracey
Gene was Eleanor's boyfriend before Karim and Heater. He was a talented West Indian actor who committed suicide because he became overwhelmed by the overt racism he experienced. Eleanor's depression stems partially from Gene's death, though she won't talk about him.
Helen is one of Karim's early girlfriends, though he insists when they meet that he's not particularly attracted to her. She's very interested in speaking with Mum and helps Jamila decide to marry Changez. She also attends the luncheon when Changez arrives, though she appears uncomfortable the entire time.
Simon is a radical lawyer who lives in the communal house to which Jamila and Changez move. Jamila begins a relationship with Simon and the two have a baby girl together.
Hairy Back is Helen's father. He's a large and hairy man, and is also horrendously racist. He sets his Great Dane on Karim when Karim tries to visit Helen.
Fish is Charlie's agent.
Carl and Marianne
Carl and Marianne are married friends of Eva's. They host one of Haroon's "appearances" at their home in Chiselhurst. They've recently been backpacking in India and they fully embrace Haroon's teachings as a result. During the day, they work at a TV rental firm.
Miss Cutmore is the white librarian who introduces Jamila to French novels and Simone de Beauvoir. Jamila resents Miss Cutmore when she leaves London, insisting that Miss Cutmore colonized her.
Louise is the writer for Pyke's production. She writes down everything the actors say as source material, and Karim notes that she's especially keen to write down things that sound stupid.
Dr. Bob owns the New York theatre that runs Pyke's play. He's an "ethnic arts" enthusiast.
Joanna is Jamila's girlfriend at the end of the novel.
Frankie is the dominatrix that Charlie hires in New York.