Mr. Palomar, a constant observer, analyst, and amateur philosopher, possibly the quintessential “modern.” Although Mr. Palomar’s character is not developed in the conventional sense, physically or psychologically, the reader does learn some superficial facts about his life. Mr. Palomar lives in Rome with his wife and daughter. He is well-to-do, enjoying an abundance of leisure time, and he likes to travel. As Mr. Palomar’s name, purposely evoking the famous telescope, suggests, his musings are at least as much symbolic as they are personal. Mr. Palomar observes and ponders objects as diverse as blackbirds, the sky, a cheese shop, and the naked bosom of a sunbather. At least twice, however, Mr. Palomar finds the tables turned on him, becoming the observed rather than the observer. Toward the end of the novel, Mr. Palomar’s lack of authoritative self-knowledge becomes conspicuous, but then, as the author suggests, a telescope is probably not the best instrument for seeing oneself.
Mrs. Palomar, Mr. Palomar’s wife and occasional critic. Strictly a foil to the main character, Mrs. Palomar makes only three notable appearances. Early in the book, she displays mild impatience with Mr. Palomar’s attempt to sing along with some blackbirds he is observing. Later, her plants and her appreciation of them are contrasted with objects of interest to her husband. Finally, she joins Mr. Palomar in observing a gecko on their terrace. The presence of Mrs. Palomar (and her daughter, about whom the reader learns almost nothing) keeps Mr. Palomar from representing any simple sort of loneliness or personal desolation. Mr. Palomar is not physically or emotionally a hermit. He does tend to get lost in his own reflections, and he may be lost in the cosmic scheme of things, but this condition is not because he is alone, as the presence of Mrs. Palomar makes clear.