Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1221
Barnaby Rudge, the title character but a figure of lesser importance than a number of other personages in the novel. Born on the night of his father’s supposed murder, he is, in his twenties, half-witted, physically strong, and grotesque, almost unearthly, in appearance because of his shock of red hair. At the same time, his sensitivity to beauty, his near idolatry of Hugh, the hostler at the Maypole Inn, and his devotion to Grip, his tame, talking raven, reveal his simple, good nature. Pardoned after being arrested and condemned to death for rioting, he becomes his mother’s stay and comfort in later years.
Mrs. Rudge, his mother, whose life has been one of hardship and sorrow. Her efforts to support her mentally disordered son and to protect him from the tribulations that befall the weak-minded are rewarded after the riots, when she and Barnaby go to live at the restored Maypole Inn under the protection of kindhearted Joe Willet and his wife Dolly.
Rudge, a savage, violent man, the former steward at the Warren. He becomes a fugitive from justice after murdering his employer, Reuben Haredale, and a gardener, whose mutilated body is mistaken for Rudge’s. Returning twenty-two years later, he lives a life of skulking and crime, his identity known only to his wife. Recognized while taking part in anti-Catholic riots, he is sentenced to death and hanged. Before his death, his wife makes futile efforts to get him to repent.
Emma Haredale, the daughter of the murdered Reuben Haredale. She is the victim of an agreement between her guardian-uncle and her fiancé’s father that she shall not marry Edward Chester, because of their different religious beliefs and because John Chester desires a grander alliance for his son. Eventually, she and Edward are married, and he rebuilds the Warren, which is looted and burned by rioters.
Geoffrey Haredale, a Roman Catholic country squire, Emma Haredale’s uncle and guardian, and a victim of mob violence during the riots. A kind-hearted man, he is especially solicitous for the welfare of Barnaby Rudge and his mother. Planning to leave England, he revisits the ruins of the Warren. There, he encounters Sir John Chester and kills him in a duel. Haredale dies several years later in a religious establishment in Italy.
Edward Chester, Emma Haredale’s finance, who defies his father’s wishes that he marry a Protestant heiress. Disowned, he goes to the Indies. He returns to become a hero at the time of the riots, saves Emma from her abductors, and marries her after her uncle withdraws his objection to the match.
John Chester, later Sir John, an egocentric man completely lacking in compassion and concerned only with his own importance and advancement. His career of selfish intrigue is ended when Geoffrey Haredale kills him in a duel. His character is modeled after that of Philip Dormer Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield.
John Willet, the landlord of the Maypole Inn, near Epping Forest. An obstinate, domineering man, he treats his grown son Joe as if he were still a boy. He never fully recovers from the mob’s abuse when the inn is plundered during the rioting, but he spends his last days peacefully in a cottage, where he entertains his cronies in a miniature replica of the Maypole bar.
Joe Willet, the landlord’s son. Bullied by his father and unhappily in love with Dolly Varden, he runs away and joins the army. After losing an arm while fighting in the American Revolution, he returns to England at the time of the riots and, with Edward Haredale, displays great heroism. For his services, he receives a silver snuffbox from the king. He and Dolly, whom he rescues after she and Emma Haredale have been abducted, are comfortably married and...
(The entire section contains 1221 words.)
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