Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 585
Theodore “Theo” Decker
Theo is the protagonist and narrator of The Goldfinch. In the aftermath of the terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in which his mother is killed, he steals The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius—his mother’s favorite painting. The orphaned Theo keeps the painting and acts as its illegal guardian throughout the course of the novel. Theo is a tortured soul who experiences love, loss, friendship, addiction, and trauma as the novel unfolds.
Theo’s mother—described as a beautiful, intelligent, humorous, caring woman whom Theo adores—is killed in the bombing of the Met. Her favorite painting was The Goldfinch, a work she first encountered in an art book at her childhood library. After Theo’s father walked out on their family, Theo and his mother became even closer and relied on each other in the wake of abandonment. In the moments when Theo contemplates suicide at the end of the novel, his mother appears to him in a dream and ultimately steers him toward life.
James “Hobie” Hobart
Hobie is an antiques dealer and Welty’s business partner. After Welty’s death, Hobie becomes a part-time caretaker for Pippa. Theo returns Welty’s ring to Hobie; eventually, he moves in with and works for Hobie as an apprentice antiques dealer. Theo ends up selling counterfeit antiques behind Hobie’s back.
Welton “Welty” Blackwell
Welty is Pippa’s elderly uncle. He accompanies her to the Met on the day of the attack, and like Theo’s mother, he dies in the bombing. As he is dying, Welty gives Theo an heirloom ring and instructs Theo to return it to his business partner, Hobie; Welty then points in the direction of The Goldfinch, which is buried in the rubble.
Pippa is the enigmatic redhead Theo sees at the museum on the day of the attack. Although Theo and Pippa have feelings for each other, Pippa is unable to love Theo as he loves her because of the traumatic past they share. In adulthood, Pippa pursues a romantic relationship with another man.
Theo’s best friend in the novel, Boris is a streetwise, reckless teenage boy whom Theo meets in Las Vegas. When the two reunite in New York City years later, Boris reveals that he stole The Goldfinch from Theo and sold it during their time in Las Vegas. He comes to find Theo with the hope that Theo will help him recover the painting in Amsterdam.
Larry is Theo’s alcoholic father, who has abandoned his son and wife. After the death of Theo’s mother, Larry shows up to take Theo from the Barbours, whisking him away to Las Vegas, where Larry spends most of his time drinking and playing baccarat. After a failed scheme to gain access to Theo’s locked savings account, Larry dies in a drunk driving accident.
Andy is Theo’s classmate and friend, and the Barbour family takes Theo in after his mother’s death. A nerdy, brainy youth, Andy was fond of Theo’s mother, who showed affection and genuine care for her son’s friend. While Theo is in Las Vegas, Andy and his father drown in a sailing accident.
Katherine “Kitsey” Barbour
Kitsey Barbour is the youngest daughter of the Barbour family. As an adult, Theo settles on an engagement to Kitsey, despite the fact that he is in love with Pippa.