Roderick Random, familiarly called Rory, a reckless and restless young man whose experiences parallel to a certain extent those of the author himself. Rory’s mother dies when he is born, and his father, disinherited by his family because he had married a poor relation and a domestic, leaves England. The libertine and unscrupulous Random goes through all the stages of the eighteenth century picaresque hero. As a boy, he is mistreated by alienated relatives; he is befriended and educated (in medicine) by a sympathetic one. His life is a series of assumed identities, leading to whirlwind courtships and attempted marriages to a number of wealthy women. Robbed by a rascally friar in France, he enlists in the army of King Louis XIV. When things seem to be going too well or too badly for Random, an antagonist or a protagonist appears to change the course of his life. Sea voyages and escapades in foreign countries seem to be Random’s plight, until in Buenos Aires he meets a wealthy English trader who proves to be his father. After a series of events making for an unsettled, nomadic life, Random is established, happily married, on his father’s estate, from which he was evicted as a youngster. Although he often acts without scruples, Random is likable, and in the end he is a personable young man.
Tom Bowling, Random’s uncle, a lieutenant aboard HMS Thunder. Appearing early in the story, he becomes Random’s benefactor. His first move is to get Random away from mean relatives and into school. As unsettled as his nephew, Bowling fights duels on sea and land, is robbed, loses and regains command of ships, and suffers at the hands of ingrates he has befriended. Always the old salt, especially in avoiding interference in others’ personal affairs, he makes his will in favor of Random and goes to sea again after seeing his young relative comfortable financially and happy maritally.
Hugh Strap, a schoolmate of Random. Like Bowling, Strap appears propitiously now and again to save Random from disaster or death. At times, Strap’s good deeds lead to further involvements for his friend. Strap, an imaginative, romantic figure, curries the favor of a French nobleman to secure employment and an inheritance from his master. As the moneyed M. d’Estrapes, he grooms Random as a fine gentleman so that...
(The entire section is 986 words.)