Illustration of Kate Hardcastle in high society attire on the left, and dressed as a barmaid on the right

She Stoops to Conquer

by Oliver Goldsmith

Start Free Trial

What is the role of Tony Lumpkin in She Stoops to Conquer?

Tony functions as a kind of trickster or antihero in She Stoops to Conquer. Although he is idle and selfish, his deceptions create the plot and make it possible for the characters to reach a happy ending.

Expert Answers

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

Tony Lumpkin is the good-for-nothing son of Dorothy Hardcastle. Tony has an independent income from his father, which allows him to be idle all the time. Instead of working, Tony uses his time to play tricks on people and cause trouble. Tony's last name, Lumpkin, suggests that he is stupid and lazy, but while he is illiterate, he is far from stupid.

Tony performs several roles in the play. He is a comic character as well as a trickster, and his desire to amuse himself at others' expense propels the plot forward. His goal—to avoid marriage—is at odds with the conventional values of his mother, who wishes to marry him off. In fact, Tony's behavior highlights the shallowness and hypocrisy of all the characters, whose narrow self interests become confused or thwarted by Tony's deceptions.

In an inversion of the typical "happy" ending, Tony is "rewarded" for his deceptions with the opportunity to reject Constance as a marriage partner. In this sense, it's possible to see Tony as a kind of antihero: although he plays a central role in the play, his values are the opposite of a conventional hero: he is duplicitous rather than truthful, cunning rather than wise, and selfish rather than sacrificial.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team