50 pages 1 hour read

Mark Twain

The Prince and the Pauper

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1881

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Character Analysis

Tom Canty

Tom Canty is one of the two protagonists of the novel, the titular “pauper” of The Prince and the Pauper. He is first introduced as an unwanted baby who “had just come to trouble” (11) the Canty family by being born. Despite the difficulties Tom faces in his youth, he possesses a compassionate nature and happily receives an education from Father Andrew. His desire to live like those he reads about leads him to the palace, where his accidental switching of places with Edward Tudor sets the plot in motion.

Tom’s limited third-person point of view introduces readers to the setting of 16th-century London. Because Tom has only lived in Offal Court, readers share Tom’s amazement as he discovers upper-class London. This literary technique highlights the large class divide in Tudor England without the narrator turning to exposition.

Tom’s active imagination is one of his main character traits. Early in the novel, he frequently comforts himself by dreaming that he is living another life. After a day of hardships, “he unleashed his imagination and soon forgot his aches and pains in delicious picturings to himself of the charmed life of a petted prince in a regal palace” (15).