Theodore Decker is the main character and tells his story using first-person point of view. The story begins when he is 13 and ends when he reaches adulthood. The main conflict of Theodore is finding his self-identity. He is very close to his mother but not with his alcoholic father. Out in the world, he identifies with Boris who is irresponsible and eventually with the wise and caring Hobie. The touchstone of Theodore, the painting of The Goldfinch, represents the criminal and the beautiful in himself.
Boris is Theodore's best friend during his time in Las Vegas, meeting him for the first time at the age of fourteen. Raised by his abusive, alcoholic father, Boris exposes Theodore to more destructive indulgences. At one point, Boris even steals the painting of The Goldfinch from Theodore when he leaves Las Vegas but pledges to help him get it back.
Hobie is an antiques dealer that meets Theodore when Thedore was returning a ring from the meusum that belonged to a friend of Hobie's, Welty. Theodore eventually lives in Hobbies house after returning from Las Vegas and they become very close friends and business partners. For most of the story, Hobbie is a father figure to Theodore.