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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 986

Roderick Random

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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

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

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 scapegrace can make a wealthy marriage in England. His kindnesses are repaid when Random comes into money and acquaints Strap with the latter’s wife to be.


Narcissa, the niece of the eccentric bluestocking to whom Random hires out as a footman. Narcissa falls in love with Random and he with her. Despite both her relatives and fate working against her and Random, the beautiful, clever Narcissa remains faithful to him, avoids marriage with any of her many suitors, and in the end becomes his wife.

Don Roderigo

Don Roderigo, the wealthy English trader whom Random meets in Buenos Aires. Don Roderigo, who has made a fortune through the favors of a Spanish grandee, proves to be Random’s father. Don Roderigo buys his paternal estate from a debt-ridden heir, and the Random family settles once more in Scotland.

Nancy Williams

Nancy Williams, a prostitute to whom Random gives medical care after she is taken ill on the street. Their recurring contacts lead to Williams becoming Narcissa’s attendant. She marries Strap.

The Squire

The Squire, Narcissa’s drunken, fox-hunting brother. His disposition is best described by his aunt, who refers to him as the Savage. The Squire’s chief function in the plot is to contend against Random and to urge his sister toward other suitors.

Sir Timothy Thicket

Sir Timothy Thicket, one of Narcissa’s suitors, whom Random beats with a cudgel for forcing his...

(The entire section contains 986 words.)

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Critical Essays