Last Updated on September 25, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 394
Henry is a man of character and virtue, who embodies, for Twain, the ideal American. His courage is shown by his survival upon first arriving, utterly penniless, in London. Later on, his principle is demonstrated in his decision to support his friend Hastings. But Twain is clear that men like Henry also require a certain degree of good fortune—good fortune which comes to them by virtue of their good natures. Henry’s first lucky stroke was his being rescued from his certain doom by a passing ship and taken to London. His second was in being selected by the two elderly gentlemen for their bet, and his third was Portia’s relationship to one of the men wagering on his character.
A woman of the British aristocracy, Portia responds warmly to the honesty and earnestness of her American friend Henry. She herself seems very light-hearted, given the delight she takes in Henry’s being involved in her stepfather’s bet. She obviously has a sense of fun, withholding the information concerning her paternity from him until the last moment.
The Two English Gentlemen ("Brother A" and "Brother B")
Two wealthy English gentlemen, whose wealth enables them to make casual wagers with large sums of money, encounter Henry after he arrives in London. Both men are very interested in the notion of common human decency, but where Portia’s stepfather ("Brother B") has faith in the human character, believing that honesty and industry can be relied on in any random individual, his brother is less certain. Both men demonstrate their faith in the nineteenth-century notion of physiognomy, given their selection of Henry on the basis of his having an honest face. With Henry’s return, Portia’s stepfather is only too glad to comply in his stepdaughter’s marrying such a capable and principled individual.
Henry’s former colleague from San Francisco, Hastings was involved in mining during the Californian Gold Rush. He has fallen on hard times recently and has come to London in order to sell his mining interests. Henry’s decision to support Hastings leads him to achieving the financial self-sufficiency that proves his worth to Portia and her stepfather.
The first man to trust Henry and give him credit for his meal, this restaurant owner is repaid by the American, who makes his restaurant famous throughout London.
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