Compare and contrast the main characters of Tom Canty and Edward Tudor in The Prince and the Pauper.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The physical comparison of these two characters is quite easy to do. They look identical to each other, and that is something that is pointed out to readers and the boys in chapter 3.

Thou hast the same hair, the same eyes, the same voice and manner, the same form...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The physical comparison of these two characters is quite easy to do. They look identical to each other, and that is something that is pointed out to readers and the boys in chapter 3.

Thou hast the same hair, the same eyes, the same voice and manner, the
same form and stature, the same face and countenance that I bear. Fared we forth naked, there is none could say which was you, and which the Prince of Wales.

Other than that, the boys are quite different from each other. They have completely different socioeconomic experiences. Edward is a prince, and his every need is met. Tom struggles to obtain the basic necessities for life. If anybody should harbor angry feelings at the world and the people around him, it should be Tom; however, readers will quickly come to see that Edward's life of entitlement has developed him into a classic jerk. He is ignorant of the world around him, he's full of pride, and he's incredibly selfish. It's one of the reasons why in chapter 10 he is still blaming Tom as a nefarious mastermind, and Edward plans to have him killed.

He easily concluded that the pauper lad, Tom Canty, had deliberately taken advantage of his stupendous opportunity and become a usurper. Therefore there was but one course to pursue—find his way to the Guildhall, make himself known, and denounce the impostor. He also made up his mind that Tom should be allowed a reasonable time for spiritual preparation, and then be hanged, drawn, and quartered, according to the law and usage of the day, in cases of high treason.

Of course his experiences outside of the palace walls are what allow him to become a much reformed person and king.

On the other hand, Tom is a much more static character. He starts out intelligent, empathetic to the plight of other people, and kind. Being kind is who he is, and that is who he is throughout the text. It's why he changes the law to a law of mercy rather than a law of blood:

Then shall the king's law be law of mercy, from this day, and never more be law of blood!

Tom is a great kid; however, Edward is the much more interesting character to read about because of his dynamic changes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tom Canty and Edward Tudor of The Prince and the Pauper are physically identical but in other ways they are exact opposites. Of course their lives and circumstances are completely opposite, the one is a street urchin and thief, the other a crown prince being reared to be king in a palace. The differences go deeper, however, and their personal traits, the traits that determine their place in the world, are opposites.

Tom is mistreated, disrespected and unloved. Edward is treated magnificently, his every wish matters, and deeply respected and much beloved, even by Henry VIII.

Tom has no personal voice: he can't say who he is. Edward has a strong personal voice and continually says who is is regardless of the persecution that it brings his way. This trait pertaining to voice corresponds to inner personal integrity: Tom lacks it, Edward has it. Because of these factors, Tom can't assert his thoughts while Edward can assert his thoughts and intentions; e.g., while Miles is in the stocks, he asserts that Miles shall be an Earl.

This shows that Tom does not have a strong mind of his own, whereas Edward does have a strong mind of his own. Tom has never learned respect for objects, while Edward values and respects objects rightly. The boys, though antithetically different, have one trait in common. They are both able to see the reality in new situations and to grow and develop in them. Tom has the ability to rise to a nobler state of mind and life. Edward has the ability to learn compassion for outrages he has never seen before.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team