Tod Hackett is a slow-looking young man who has just left the Yale School of Fine Arts, where he was studying painting, to take a set designing job with National Films in Hollywood. Tod's status as intellectual outsider to the Hollywood scene informs his position in the novel. While his art school classmates may see his new job as set designer as a sellout, Tod has found new artistic challenges in his attempt to paint Hollywood. His biggest challenge is depicting the lower-middle class set of recent Midwestern immigrants to Hollywood who are bitter and disillusioned that Hollywood has not offered them the dream they expected. Tod's keen painter's eye gives the text its visual detail, while his intellectual status gives us built-in critical readings of various characters and interactions. This status also contributes to one of the main tensions of the novel: Tod seems to be a non-participant in many ways, and also seems to position himself as above—or more enlightened than—the other characters. Eventually, however, even Tod begins to be enthralled with some of the same things that enthrall the other characters—a fact that shows through only slightly in the narrative and works against Tod's position as superior observer.