Roderick Random Summary

  • Last updated on June 12, 2023
Title: Roderick Random

Author: Tobias Smollett

Publication Date: 1748

Genre: Fiction

Page Length: 368 pages (Penguin edition)

Roderick Random is a classic novel written by Tobias Smollett in 1748. The novel is about the life and adventures of a young man named Roderick Random. Roderick is a Scottish man, who is uneducated, and poor. He joins the navy, and then becomes a surgeon's assistant. Later, he becomes a privateer and meets an Englishman, Lieutenant Bowling, who becomes his friend.

Roderick Random is divided into two volumes and 17 chapters. The first volume consists of eight chapters, while the second volume consists of nine chapters. The novel is written in the first person, and Roderick Random narrates the story.

Volume I

In chapter one, Roderick introduces himself as the son of a Scottish country gentleman. His father dies when he is young, and his mother remarries. He is sent to school but dislikes it and decides to run away. He is taken to London, where he is abandoned and forced to live as a beggar.

In chapter two, Roderick's luck changes when he is taken in by a kind-hearted merchant named Mr. Thompson. He becomes friends with a boy named Hugh Strap, who has a strong work ethic and becomes Roderick's faithful companion.

In chapter three, Roderick becomes infatuated with a woman named Narcissa. However, he discovers that her father is opposed to their relationship because of his low social status. Roderick decides to try to win her heart by becoming a doctor, and he becomes the apprentice of a surgeon.

In chapter four, Roderick's apprenticeship is cut short when his master dies suddenly. He becomes a wanderer and joins the navy.

In chapter five, Roderick's life in the navy is harsh. He becomes friends with a sailor named Jack and is involved in a mutiny against a dishonest captain. Roderick is wounded during the mutiny and is forced to leave the navy.

In chapter six, Roderick becomes a footman for a wealthy woman named Mrs. Goward. He is dismissed from his position when he is wrongly accused of stealing. He later becomes a servant to another woman named Miss Snapper, who is cruel and abusive.

In chapter seven, Roderick becomes a privateer and meets Lieutenant Bowling, who becomes his friend. They have many adventures together, including capturing a Spanish ship.

In chapter eight, Roderick and Lieutenant Bowling are captured by a French ship, and Roderick is imprisoned in France. He manages to escape with the help of a fellow prisoner and returns to England.

Volume II

In chapter one, Roderick returns to London, where he encounters Narcissa again. Narcissa is now engaged to a wealthy man named Sir Timothy. Roderick becomes depressed and ill.

In chapter two, Roderick is taken care of by a woman named Mrs. Sagely. He becomes involved in an affair with her daughter, Melissa.

In chapter three, Roderick's luck improves when he receives an inheritance from his uncle. He leaves London and travels to Bath, where he meets a group of wealthy people and becomes their friend.

In chapter four, Roderick falls in love with a woman named Miss Williams, who is a governess. Miss Williams becomes pregnant, and Roderick decides to marry her.

In chapter five, Roderick is reunited with Lieutenant Bowling, and they have many adventures together.

In chapter six, Roderick and Lieutenant Bowling are kidnapped by pirates. They manage to escape and are rescued by a British ship.

In chapter seven, Roderick and Lieutenant Bowling return to London, where they meet Narcissa again. Narcissa is now unhappy with her marriage and confesses her love to Roderick.

In chapter eight, Roderick finds himself in debt and is imprisoned. He is released when a friend pays his debt.

In chapter nine, Roderick and Narcissa are finally able to be together, and they get married.


Roderick Random is a picaresque novel, which means that it follows the adventures of a rogue or a scoundrel. The theme of the novel is the journey of Roderick Random from a poor and uneducated beggar to a wealthy and respected member of society. However, the novel also explores the darker side of human nature, including betrayal and cruelty.

Another important theme of the novel is that of class and social status. Roderick's social status is a major obstacle to his relationship with Narcissa. Through his various adventures and experiences, Roderick learns the value of hard work, perseverance, and determination.


Roderick Random is a classic novel that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. The novel is a vivid portrayal of 18th century England and the social and economic conditions of the time. The novel explores many themes, including the journey of self-discovery, the struggle against social and economic oppression, and the importance of friendship and loyalty. Roderick Random is a must-read for those interested in the picaresque genre and 18th century literature.

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