Tom Canty (the pauper) and Prince Edward both lead different lives, although they look alike and are born on the same day. Tom is a pauper in London's slums while Edward is a prince. Generally, the author shows the two boys having to deal with hardships regardless of their location and their status. However, the two use different approaches to cope with these hardships.
The lives of the two change on the day they exchange clothes with each other. Tom ends up being in the palace while Edward must now endure the hardships of the street life.
Tom must do everything he can to convince everyone that he is the real Edward. However, in his role as the fake prince, he finds court life to be dull and vexing, even though he tasted a hard life in Offal Court with his father. He has sudden good fortune but must cope with being around servants. Although he generally likes life at the palace, he misses his freedom and family. He does not blame his current status on Edward and is sympathetic and good. He learns that while everyone wants to be in such a good place, it is not bad at all to have free time to oneself. As a once independent boy, he has to endure the crowd around him. Unlike Tom, he has learned that he would not like to be a noble, given the constraints and challenges that come with it.
Edward, the right and long-awaited heir of the English throne, hates life in the street and resolves to change things if he gets a chance to return to the throne. Like Tom, he is in this type of life because of an unplanned occurrence. He is experiencing what many poor people have to cope with daily, and at one time nearly dies. He regrets the decision to exchange clothes with Tom and thinks Tom had impersonated him. The writer thus tries to show that he is blaming the misfortune on Tom. Even people around him are shocked with his revelations about his true identity. He is generally a good boy like Tom, and although his innocence and ignorance make people think he is mad, it saves him. Edward, an intelligent boy, was used to a life of dependency and so is unable to fight like an independent person like Tom would.