Theodore “Theo” Decker Theo is the main character who tells his story using first-person point of view (“I”), beginning when he is 13 years old and ending when he has reached adulthood. Theo’s main conflict is that of self-identity. He is close to his mother but not to his alcoholic father, who is deceitful and physically violent. Theo struggles to find his own identity in the world, first identifying with irresponsible but appealing Boris and eventually with wise and caring Hobie. His touchstone, The Goldfinch, represents both parts of himself: the criminal and the beautiful.
Audrey Decker Audrey is Theo’s mother. Just before she is killed, she reveals her relationship with The Goldfinch: Having first seen it in books when she was a child, it is the first painting she ever loved. Audrey continues to be a factor in Theo’s life long after she’s dead. She appears to him in the Amsterdam hotel on Christmas day and is constantly present in Theo’s thoughts and memories. As Theo carries The Goldfinch, he symbolically carries part of her.
Larry Decker Larry is Theo’s father, who is charming as well as hostile, abusive, addicted, and impulsive. He keeps secrets and tells lies, all with an eye for self-gain. Theo mimics this practice in his restoration of fake “antique” furniture, his concealment of the painting, and his festering drug addiction. Theo’s father represents the part of Theo that is dark, calculating, selfish, and apathetic. Theo’s awareness of his father’s tendencies compels Theo to evaluate his own destructive behaviors.
Boris Pavlikovsky Boris is Theo’s very close friend during Theo’s time in Las Vegas and becomes a central figure later in Theo’s adult life. Boris’ upbringing at the hands of an alcoholic and physically abusive father forced him to come of age much too early. Boris represents Theo’s tendencies to escape, indulge in the basest of pleasures, and ignore rules and regulations.
James “Hobie” Hobart Hobie is the former business partner of Welty Blackwell, who dies in the museum bombing after giving Theo a family heirloom ring. Hobie eventually provides a stable life for Theo, who creates a lucrative business scam that Hobie remains blissfully ignorant of for most of the novel. Hobie cares for Theo in the same way that he cares for forgotten antiques: He sees value in an object or person apart from surface appearances. Theo feels beholden to Hobie even as he betrays Hobie’s trust.
Pippa Pippa is Theo’s true-but-seemingly-unrequited love. Like Theo, she was in the museum the day of the bombing and was traumatized. Because of this shared experience, they have similar worldviews as well as feelings for each other. Furthermore, neither one has a stable home to call their own after the attack. Pippa’s enduring value to Theo is one of mutual compassion because of the bombing and a shared intimacy, which is ultimately less than Theo would like.
Katherine “Kitsey” Barbour Kitsey is Theo’s fiancée and the younger sister of his school classmate Andy. Their engagement is more from convenience and familiarity than from true love. When Theo learns that Kitsey is having an affair, Kitsey tells Theo that she knows he doesn’t truly love her, and she doesn’t truly love him, but that they are a good match for other reasons.
Andrew “Andy” Barbour Andy is Theo’s school classmate. Theo lives with Andy’s family temporarily after his mother is killed.
Welton “Welty” Blackwell Welty is Hobie’s business partner, Pippa’s guardian, previously Pippa’s mother’s guardian, and the man who gives a family heirloom ring to Theo before Welty dies in the museum bombing.
Chance Barbour The father of the family Theo lives with briefly after his mother is killed.
Samantha Barbour The mother of the family Theo lives with briefly after his mother is killed.
Platt Barbour Andy’s older brother, a bully to Theo and Andy when they were young.
Toddy Barbour Andy’s younger brother.
Xandra Theo’s father’s girlfriend, from whom Theo and Boris steal money and drugs.
Mr. Bracegirdle Theo’s mother’s attorney, who handles Theo’s trust fund.
Lucius Reeve A victim of Theo’s fake antique scam, who tries to blackmail Theo to gain possession of The Goldfinch.
Margaret Blackwell Pierce Pippa’s aunt, who takes Pippa from Hobie and sends her to a boarding school for children who suffer from trauma.
Tom Cable A despised classmate of Theo’s. As adults, Tom and Kitsey are in love and have an affair while she is engaged to Theo.
Horst An associate of Boris who trades in stolen and forged art.