Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 295
Jonathan Wild, a descendant of many men hanged for thievery and treason. He becomes a notorious criminal, beginning as a pickpocket while still a schoolboy. He becomes a criminal leader and gathers about him a gang of thieves who do his bidding. He shows his “greatness” as a criminal by being dishonest even to his friends and companions. His highest aim is to send his honest friend, Heartfree, to the gallows. Instead, he himself dies on the gallows, cursing humankind.
Count La Ruse
Count La Ruse, a fellow criminal with Jonathan Wild. He is a pickpocket befriended by Jonathan while in debtors’ prison. He has a long career in crime that ends when he is executed by being broken on the wheel in France.
Laetitia Snap, who becomes Jonathan’s wife. She keeps him at a distance for a time in order to keep her lover a secret. She is a fitting wife for Jonathan, being herself a pickpocket and a cheat at cards. She ends up on the gallows.
Mr. Heartfree, a good man who loves his family and is honest in his dealings. He is a former schoolmate of Jonathan. He is a jeweler by trade and is ruined by Jonathan and his gang, who steal his stock, beat him terribly, and say at the same time they are his friends.
Mrs. Heartfree, an honest woman. Jonathan convinces her that her husband wants her to go with Jonathan to Holland. Jonathan mistreats her, but she returns from her extensive travels in time to save her husband from hanging after he has been framed by Jonathan. When she returns, she has a fabulous jewel, the gift of a savage chief, which restores the family’s prosperity.