Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Squire Brown

Squire Brown, Tom Brown’s father, a man who believes in permitting his children to mingle with all sorts of people, as long as they are honorable.

Dr. Arnold

Dr. Arnold, the fine, gentlemanly, and religious headmaster of Rugby. He is gentle but firm with his charges and understands them thoroughly.

Tom Brown

Tom Brown, a good boy who finds himself in a great deal of mischief at Rugby after he gets in with a group of ruffians. Because he is essentially good, he responds to the example of a younger boy who becomes his roommate. Before he finishes his work at Rugby to go to Oxford, Tom becomes a great leader in the school and changes the actions and attitudes of the boys for the better.

George Arthur

George Arthur, a younger boy at Rugby who, by his moral courage and religious fervor, reforms Tom Brown and Harry East from wild mischief-makers into school leaders. George is the true leader, working through Tom’s influence over the other boys.

Harry East

Harry East, a wild young lad who, under the influence of Tom, George, and Dr. Arnold, becomes a good young man, as he really wants to be. He finds great help in his religion.


Flashman, a bully at Rugby whose power over the younger boys is broken by the stalwart defense of Tom and Harry. Flashman is expelled from Rugby for drunkenness.

Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Written in part to inform Hughes's son about what lay ahead for him in school and in life, Tom Brown's Schooldays focuses on the theme of what it means to be a mature English citizen. Hughes, a devout Anglican, sees maturity resting ultimately on the individual's acceptance of the sovereignty of God as evidenced in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. But Hughes does not associate Christian maturity with self-denial but rather with active involvement in life and all that it has to offer. For Hughes the ideal man is physically robust, intellectually alert, socially aware, and morally forgiving.

Hughes develops his theme primarily through Tom Brown, the novel's protagonist. Initially Hughes emphasizes the physical side of Tom's personality—he loves to play games, take jaunts, and make mischief. Academically, Tom does only what he has to do to pass his courses. Tom is joined in his endeavors by young Harry East, and the boys persist in neglecting their studies and stirring up trouble to the extent that the headmaster, Dr. Arnold, fears for their futures at the school. To deflect Brown and East from the potentially self-destructive course they are following, Arnold pairs off Tom with a new boy, the shy, physically weak, but brilliant George Arthur. Tom protects George from the school bullies, helps him make friends, and introduces him to sports. George, in turn, makes Tom and Harry aware of the satisfactions that can come from intellectual work and...

(The entire section is 367 words.)