Because of the show's longevity, many characters have appeared throughout the show, each with a wide array of personalities and other character traits. The following describes characters from the picture books and animated television series by Marc Brown:
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Common character tropes
Book Dumb: Depending on the writer, any one of Arthur's immediate friends (except Brain), Arthur himself, or even the grown ups may be subject to this.
Bookworm: Every child character in the show has been seen in the library at least once.
Cartoon Creature: One of the commonly asked questions about the show is the subject of which animal some of the characters are. Arthur and his family are the most confusing since they do not look like aardvarks at all.
Prunella is another character that's debated upon; it is undecided on whether or not she is a poodle or a rat.
Free-Range Children: Arthur and co. are about only eight years old and are in third grade, yet they run all about Elwood City much like teens several years older. None of their parents seem to be concerned, with the exception of what happens in S2's "Lost!" where Arthur accidentally rides the bus line to the city limits.
Played With in an episode where for some reason, Brain and Binky think they're trapped at the soccer field and their moms forgot to pick them up. They go everywhere else in their neighborhood, but can't walk home?
Close-Knit Community: This may be the best explanation; some episodes imply that the parents in Mr. Ratburn's class have all shared contact information with each other, while others make it clear that some of the parents are on a First Name Basis.
Limited Wardrobe The characters all have characteristic outfits by which they are identified. Depending on the episode or the setting, they may be changed.
Living Prop: There are a number of such characters in Arthur, mostly recurring townspeople and the students in D.W.'s class. Of important note are a pair of rabbit kids who've been in Arthur's class since the S1, but are not as developed as their classmates (in 15 seasons, the male one has only talked twice, and the female one never!). S13's "MacFrensky" had a class list with the names Alex & Maria on it, but some fans refuse to believe those are their names, since Arthur has had several other one-shot classmates over the years (never mind that the two rabbits were the only other two kids besides the already named regulars shown in class in that episode).
It was confirmed at New York Comic Con 2013 that the two rabbit kids are indeed named Alex and Maria, and that the possibility of becoming Ascended Extras is open.
Not Allowed to Grow Up: Even though some characters have birthdays over the course of the show, the characters are shown to never physically age, outside of occasional flash-forward or fantasy.
Lampshaded by D.W. in S1's "Arthur's New Year's Eve", suggesting that she's trapped in some kind of time warp that causes her to never get any older.
Punny Name: Most characters. The Crosswire family is probably the most obvious.
Art Evolution: Applies to the book version, where he starts out as an actual aardvark (looking more like an anteater), and would slowly change in design until he came to his current look.
Beware the Nice Ones: Normally a good-natured Nice Guy, but it's not a good idea to anger him. When D.W. destroyed his model plane and chose to blame him instead of apologising for her actions, he erupted.
Big "YES!": When he finds out that Buster is coming home from a Long Bus Trip with his father in S3's "Buster's Back".
The Everyman: In sharp contrast to a group of widely varied friends with telling character traits. Lampshaded in S6's "Best of the Nest", when Arthur settles on "Just Plain Goose." This is extremely poignant when one considers that most of the later season's episodes focus less on Arthur.
Be Careful What You Wish For: The teaser for "Arthur's Substitute Teacher Trouble" ends with Buster wishing that Mr. Ratburn would disappear.
Big Eater: So much so that during a fantasy sequence in S3's "I'd Rather Read it Myself", D.W. imagines him as a robot that only exists to eat. One wonders just how the kid can stay lean. Often leads to Crazy Consumption.
Cloudcuckoolander: Extremely superstitious, and is very, VERY obsessed with extraterrestrial life.
Ears as Hair: Buster's mother makes him wear an embarrassing shower cap when he goes swimming, but his ears are more prominent than most, and it would be dangerous to get water inside of them.
Eureka Moment: How Buster usually solves his cases. "Overflowing?" "That song!"
Expressive Ears: They droop when Buster is upset. If "Buster Makes the Grade" is any indication, he doesn't take school exams seriously.
Hypno Fool: In S11's "Buenas Noches, Vicita", one of D.W.'s friends (Vicita) can't go to sleep. D.W. tries several methods, including trying to get Buster to hypnotize her to sleep. A couple of seconds later...
Keet: He's the most energetic and funniest of Arthur's friends.
Little Known Facts: Buster will believe anything he reads on the internet, as shown in S9's "Buster the Myth Maker".
Meaningful Name: Buster's street address is 7 Roswell Court. An alien spaceship is rumored to have crashed in Roswell, New Mexico.
Name's the Same: Not to be confused with that otherrabbit named "Buster". It gets even more confusing when a PSA has Buster refer to himself as "Buster Bunny" instead of "Buster Baxter".
Not So Different: With, of all characters, Mr. Ratburn. They seem opposites in most respects, especially in regards to anything school-related. Buster has a (rather silly) fear of his teacher's love for learning. Despite this, the characters share many other definitive personal tastes. The biggest examples? Both obsessively love desserts, both watch cartoons, and Mr. Ratburn seems to have been much more like Buster in his youth according to what was seen on an old videotape from his high school days.
Nerd: His aforementioned obsession with extraterrestrial life.
Put on a Bus: S2's "Arthur's Faraway Friend" has Buster leave the show to travel the world with his airline pilot father. The Bus Came Back at the start of S3.
Wild Take: In his nightmare in S1's "Arthur's First Sleepover".
Francine Alice Frensky
2nd best friend of Arthur. She and her family are monkeys.
The Ace: Exceptionally good at almost every sport that exists, always has the last word with some witty or sarcastic reply, and is usually the one that ends up having to bail out one or all of her friends in some way or another.
Eating Lunch Alone: Muffy lets her take the heat for cheating on a math test in "Arthur and the True Francine". Francine is too despondent to sit with company.
Crowd Chant: Muffy confesses, and Francine is cleared to play in a baseball game with her relieved teammates.
Femininity Failure: She tries to be feminine for one day, picture day, where she goes to school in a dress and doesn't play kickball during recess so she'll be presentable for her photo, but she ends up playing anyway, and being scruffy in the picture.
Official Couple: She is shown married to Arthur in the future on multiple occasions, despite massive denial between each other in S2's "Arthur and the Square Dance". She insisted on doing the rescue scene in "Arthur Makes a Movie" and was keen to play spin the bottle at Arthur's birthday party, possibly in the hope of getting to kiss Arthur.
Passionate Sports Girl: Francine is very athletic and loves sports, especially soccer, football, kickball, and bowling. The only sports she doesn't excel at are badminton and figure skating (which she dismisses as "girly"). Francine is very determined, perhaps even restless, and if she doesn't have an immediate knack for a certain sport or skill, she can become frustrated.
Tsundere: Comes off as this occasionally, especially towards Arthur.
Tyrant Takes the Helm: Main plot point in S1's "Francine Frensky, Superstar". Only after Mr. Ratburn intervened (after what amounted to the entire class sabotaging the play rehearsal) was everything put back into place.
We Want Our Jerk Back: Happens in S1's "Meek For A Week"', which nearly caused the group's team to lose a hockey match. They got the jerk back when her Berserk Button was pushed.
Hey, It's That Voice!: Melissa Altro is also the voice of Pippi Longstocking in the 1997 animated adaptation of the character. Is it a coincidence that both of Altro's characters happen to have long strands of red hair at the sides of their heads?
Melissa also voiced Paige Logan from Grossology, another snobby rich girl.
Hypocritical Humor: Muffy regularly accuses people of being snobs despite being the textbook example herself.
Intergenerational Friendship: In "The Butler Did... What?", Muffy thought she had this kind of relationship with Bailey. But Francine points out she barely know him personally. To be fair to Muffy, the two are pretty close to one another before she got to know him better by the end of the episode.
Upper-Class Twit: In S13's "The Great MacGrady", it's shown that she literally does not know how to do dishes. She simply squirts some dish-washing liquid onto the sink full and expects that to do the job.
When she learns her family history, she's actually shocked and disgusted when she finds out her family is not akin to royalty, but rather she's descended from commoners and most of her family's wealth comes from her dad's used car business.
She thinks that using a credit card is not the same as spending money.
A particularly egregious example is in the episode "My Club Rules" where in Muffy basically decides the treehouse isn't good enough for her and that she'll start her own club. Muffy basically begins a chain of everyone acting like jerks to everyone else to go form their own clubs.
The B Grade: Brain gets a B- on a test in S9's "Breezy Listening Blues" and concludes that the breezy listening music his parents recently started playing in their music shop is having a deleterious effect on his studies.
Big "WHAT?!": His reaction to his early demise in "Best of the Nest".
Sanity Slippage: Brain is usually the most calm and approachable of all the kids, but when he feels he's been wronged in some way, he'll become darn near psychotic and start giggling crazily, trying to plot revenge.
Token Minority: Brain and his Family seem to be the only major Black characters in the show.
Why Did It Have To Be Water?: He was afraid to go to a pool party because of his aquaphobia, though later seasons remove it, implying that The Brain got over his fear.
Another one of Arthur's friends, though also a bully, or once was anyway. He and his family are bulldogs. He plays the clarinet and also dances ballet. He hangs with a group called the "Tough Customers," though lately has somewhat drifted away from their ideals.
Adult Fear: Even if the concerns that Mrs. Barnes expresses in "Binky Goes Nuts" seem a bit excessive, they are realistic.
Ambiguously Gay: While some may raise their eyebrows at this, many fans of the show have acknowledged Binky as potentially being gay. As the series progresses, we learn that he has Hidden Depths when it comes to a variety of things including the theater, dance, art, music, culture, etc. In the Living Books he shows a dislike for girls that the other boys lack.
Real Men Wear Pink: Sleeps with a night light and takes ballet classes. Seems the longer the series continues, the less he tries to hide it. Heck, his shirt is even sort of pinkish-orange!
Art Evolution: In the books his ears were originally drawn flatter on his body and he was fatter.
Big "NO!": Binky busts out an epic one after a nightmare in "Binky Goes Nuts".
Only Known by Their Nickname: S15's "What's in a Name" reveals that Binky is indeed not his real name. It is, in fact, Shelley, named after his great grandfather. Not only do his parents not call him this, even Binky himself, didn't know.
Unmanly Secret: Zigzagged like crazy. When his character first starts developing unmanly interests, he tries to hide them, but then gets found out anyway. Though some people try to make a big deal of it at first, his perceived fierceness and reputation as a bully allows him to quell any teasing or bullying simply by growls, posturing and death glares. In later seasons, he still sometimes tries to hide it, but just as often is open about it. In Season 15's "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," he doesn't care one bit that his friends in the Tough Customers gang know that he's going to be performing in a clarinet solo, but is terribly afraid that one of them might find out that he still sometimes holds his mother's hand. When they do find out anyway, they chew him out... for not having a juicier, more embarrassing secret!
Only Child Syndrome: Main plot point in S2's "Sue Ellen's Little Sister". Come to the point where she spends time with D.W. however...
Ship Tease: S2's "Sue Ellen's Lost Diary" hints that Sue Ellen may have a crush on Arthur, following a debacle with her diary. This is a throwback to the book "Arthur's Valentine" where Arthur has a crush on the new student (Sue Ellen).
Originally a background character, she and her family are dogs.
Amateur Sleuth: Fern, like Buster, has this as one of her trademarks. In sharp contrast to Buster though, Fern prefers classic novelized detectives like Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, sometimes imitating any of them when she's on a case.
Nerd: She is a Mystery Novel Fangirl, being shown in S2's "Fern's Slumber Party" playing with a Sherlock Holmes action figure. S11's "Phony Fern" even has her (and George) role-playing as Hercule Poirot.
Nightmare Fetishist: Along with mysteries, Fern is very fond of reading and telling scary stories.
She's also known to enact scary pranks on people, or imagine terrible things happening to people while she smiles about it.
Shrinking Violet: As the show progresses, she becomes more out-going and socializes more, though she still retains a bit of shyness.
Nerd: Earlier seasons would show that Prunella and her sister Rubella were obsessed with paranormal phenomena. Her massive love for Henry Skreever would later become one of her signature character traits.
Phony Psychic: Just like her big sister. Oddly, she still believes her sister even though she's using the same tricks.
Yet Another Christmas Carol: She goes through one in S4's "Prunella Gets it Twice". Lampshaded when the "Ghost of Presents Past" interweaves Tiny Tim into the story.
Originally a minor character in the background, he is a moose; a rare sight in the show.
Ascended Extra: Though George existed since the beginning of the show, it was quite a long time before he was made into a full-fledged character, in S3's "Arthur's Dummy Disaster". Since then there have been more George-centric episodes.
Mysterious Protector: This is George's entire relationship with his classmates, until they get to know him.
Nerd: George is incredibly awkward around other people (in part because of his horns), and spends less time talking to living people than he does to his ventriloquist's dummy, Wally, which he made himself.
Truth in Television: Students with disabilities can submit exams and assignments in an alternate format, if they have documented their disability in advance.
Another former background character in Arthur's class, she is a cat, entirely different from Sue Ellen though.
The Ace: It is mentioned that Jenna is also good at sports, mostly at the ones Francine is not good at.
Ascended Extra: Like George, it was quite a while before she became a character with a personality. Despite having only one episode with her as the main focus in the show's 15 seasons (S7's "Jenna's Bedtime Blues"), she is maintained as a prominent secondary character.
Informed Ability: In S6's "The Good Sport" we're told that Jenna excels in a number of sports that it's hard to imagine her doing.
This seems like a one-off joke at first, but later episodes actually show her playing those sports.
Ladonna CompsonThe Compsons are a family of rabbits with tan fur. They moved from Louisiana to Elwood City in the Season 16 premiere, "Based On A True Story". Ladonna is the third of four siblings. She has a penchant for oral storytelling, similar to Fern's love of poetry, or Sue Ellen's fondness love of her journal.
Big Eater: So much so that her father calls her a "garbage disposal with legs".
Cool Big Sis: She has her moments, particularly during "Adventures in Budylon."
Stock Yuck: She can't stand beets; just looking at beets upsets her stomach.
"We're not bullies. We're kids who have a hard time expressing our emotions in a constructive manner." - Rattles Ciccone
The Tough Customers are a gang of bullies at Lakewood Elementary School, founded by Binky, who is the one member who is not in the fourth grade. In "Arthur's Big Hit", Binky decides to get rid of the club, but in later episodes the club is still there. They hang out on the jungle gym (aka: The Tower of Pain), and also have an entire lunch table reserved for themselves. In early episodes, especially Season One and Two, they were portrayed as malevolent malcontents, but this lessened as time went on. Initially, there were many members, including Binky, Rattles, Molly, but the core three are the only of the original club to remain: none of the others are seen very frequently after Season Four. Later, Molly, Rattles, and Binky are joined by Slink, who was previously just a one-shot character from an earlier episode. From then onward, those four are consistently portrayed as the entirety of the group.
In one episode, Arthur proclaims that he's thief to gain acceptance to their group, and they openly welcome him and congratulate him on his "art." Then when it's revealed he wasn't honest, Binky and Rattles berate him for lying.
Character Tics: Frequently and consistently seen with their rollerblades and skateboards.
Depending on the Writer: Whether they're actually legitimately malicious or just rougher and tougher than most of the other students.
Diminishing Villain Threat:In early seasons, they're truly nasty and unkind to other students. By Season Eight, the worst they do is claim the jungle gym for themselves and bar everyone else from playing there, and occasionally throw water balloons at other students.
Oddly enough, they can be frequently found at the library, as seen in "Sue Ellen's Lost Diary" and "Arthur Makes Waves".
Metal Head: Molly, Rattles, Slink, and maybe Binky.
No Name Given: A few of the Tough Customer "extras" have names, like the male cat named Kieper and the male bear named Billy, but others remain unnamed such as a male dog, a male rabbit, a female cat, and a female aardvark.
Pet the Dog: In "D.W., Dancing Queen", Molly and Rattles step up to help D.W. with her ballet performance when Binky twists his ankle and is unable to dance onstage with her.
Real Men Wear Pink: Especially Binky and later Rattles, but all of them dance ballet at some point.
Binky, Slink, Molly, and Rattles all take part in a barbershop routine for the Summer Serenade in "D.W. Beats All".
Meaningful Name: Her first name means "bitter", which certainly suits her malicious personality in the early seasons.
The derivation of her surname is from the Gaelic "Mac Dhomhnuill", translating as "The son of Donald". It is said that the personal name "Donald" translates as "world-rule". Molly is a bully who rules the playground.
Ascended Extra: She started off as a generic bully girl in the Tough Customers, but later episodes gave her a Morality Pet in the form of her younger brother, a hidden creative side, a more relaxed personality (in comparison), and an overall more sympathetic presentation.
Freudian Excuse: Averted. If anything, she seems to be from a wealthy, stable family. Not to say that stable, wealthy families don't encounter problems, and there could be issues beneath the surface, but the show doesn't appear to be taking this route for her.
It turns out that she was bullied herself when she was younger.
Hidden Depths: She cares a great amount for her brother and mom, is interested by storytelling and animation techniques, and is concerned by the lack of independent female characters in media.
Implied Death Threat: We don't hear what she said to Muffy in "The Law of the Jungle Gym", but even the other Tough Customers thought she went too far.
Just Friends: With all of the male Tough Customers, as well as Arthur.
Lean and Mean: Perhaps it's just because she's older and taller, but she's noticeably thinner than the main cast. This is especially apparent when she's standing next to the male Tough Customers, who are more stocky and muscular than her.
Morality Pet: Her younger brother James is one for her, and she decides to change her ways when she sees him repeating her mistakes.
At one point, the male Tough Customers imagined her in a dress and were weirded out by the very idea.
She took part in a barbershop quartet with Binky, Slink, and Rattles. All four wore traditional male barbershop costumes.
In an Imagine Spot of 50's society, Arthur and his friends are shown wearing gendered clothing, letterman sweaters for the boys, poodle skirts for the girls, while the Tough Customers are depicted as greasers. Molly is wearing a dark leather jacket and jeans right alongside her male friends.
The Other Darrin: Averted. Maggie Castle has been the only person to voice Molly, but she's used several different voices. In early season, especially, Season One, Molly has distinctly feminine voice with a slightly nasally high pitch. Most of Season Five through Season Eight portray her with a lower, flatter voice than most of the other girls that sounds almost gender-neutral. Later on, her voice varies between the latter and a different voice that's recognizably female. In Season Fifteen, her voice is just slightly feminine, but now with a trace of a New York accent. As of season 16, however, she seems to have reverted to the previous voice.
Pet the Dog: In "Law of the Jungle Gym", she can be seen several times being kind to a stray cat.
She is often very kind to her younger brother, and much more patient with him than Arthur is with D.W.
When other students come to her for advice, she tells them her best ideas and takes time to talk with them even though she would rather be skateboarding.
"The Last Tough Customer" is one giant moment for her.
Pint-Sized Powerhouse: A subtler example than most, but when she is arm-wrestling with Binky, she gives as good as she gets even though he's taller, heavier, and stronger than her.
Positive Discrimination: She is depicted as the most intelligent, capable, and, besides Binky, sympathetic Tough Customer, and though she still remains tough, her bullying of other kids is less and less prominent in later seasons.
Scotland: Her surname indicates Scottish heritage, and her (presumably paternal) uncle appears to have been born and raised there.
Sleeves Are for Wimps: A rare female example. Molly is almost always seen wearing a denim jacket as a shirt with ragged edges from ripping off the sleeves.
Sibling Yin-Yang: Tough, confrontational Molly and her quiet, unassuming younger brother James.
The Stoic: As a result of her Blinding Bangs that hide her eyes, it's difficult to gauge her emotion when she isn't speaking.
Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Mostly absent. The only physical indication of her gender is her bob, but that helps little when she's standing beside fellow Tough Customer Slink, who is male and has hair that's longer than hers.
Those Two Bad Guys: While she often initially appeared in the background of some scenes along with other Tough Customers, Season Five onwards seems to be going forward with this route for her and Rattles.
Platonic Life Partners: As of Seasons Eight and Nine, Molly and Rattles are almost never seen apart, even for mundane activities such as walking the dog, or special occasions such as dancing ballet together.
Tomboy: Out of all the girls on the show, Molly is probably the quintessential example.
Nice Hat: He is almost never seen without his red baseball cap, always worn backwards.
Those Two Bad Guys: While he often initially appeared in the background of some scenes along with other Tough Customers, Season Five onwards seems to be going forward with this route for him and Molly.
Platonic Life Partners: As of Seasons Eight and Nine, Molly and Rattles are almost never seen apart, even for mundane activities such as walking the dog, or special occasions, such as dancing ballet together.
Informed Deformity: S10's "Operation, D.W.!" has her with hearing problems. First she doesn't hear her teacher call her and later she turns the volume up on the television way more than it should be. It's determined that she needs an operation to remove fluid in her ears. However, throughout the rest of the episode, everyone talks to her normally and she hears everything just fine.
Only Known by Their Nickname: Nobody calls D.W. "Dora" or "Dora Winifred" unless it's her parents issuing a Full Name Ultimatum or they want to deal with a major tantrum. In S2's "D.W. Goes to Washington," Mr. Read actually didn't seem to remember her full name.
Mr. Read: Her name is D.W.
Secret Service member: That's it? Initials? You didn't give the kid a full name?
The Other Darrin: Because D.W. is voiced by boys, it is inevitable that voice actors would be changed.
Real Time: In "D.W. Gets Lost," Ed Crosswire asks for five minutes of Jane Read's time. This is how long she and D.W. are separated.
Security Blanket: She has one called "blankie" which was the focus of both the book and television story "D.W.'s Lost Blankie." One of the show's title cards depicts her wearing it as a superhero cape.
Stock Yuck: D.W. has a long list of foods which she does not like, most of which are vegetables.
I Know Your True Name: An "Iron Fist" approach will not work when babysitting the Tibbles. Tell them a story, however, and they're more likely to cooperate.
Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: In the original books, the Tibble Twins and their Grandma were drawn as humans. They have since been anthropomorphized for the television series and latter books.
Wise Beyond Their Years: Somewhat justified in that in addition to kindergarten, she's also homeschooled by a tutor.
Bud CompsonLadonna's younger brother, and D.W.'s newest classmate. The only kid in preschool who can actually cope with the Tibble Twins.Mei-Lin BarnesBinky's baby sister. A bear cub, she was adopted from China in season 11. She mostly appears in Kate-related episodes
Everyone Went to School Together: S1's "Arthur's Almost Boring Day" showcases Grandma Thora's old home movies, revealing that David Read, Mr. Ratburn, and Mr. Haney all attended the same high school at the same time.
S15's "The Butler Did... What?" also reveals Bailey and Mr. Ratburn were in the same high school class.
Face Palm: When Muffy attributes the creation of the Dewey Decimal System to Thomas Edison.
Mr. Ratburn: I just wanted of the Spring reading list-OH! Are you having cake?!?
Would carry over in S4's "The Rat who Came to Dinner".
D.W: There was no cake Arthur. Mr. Rathead was very disappointed.
Hidden Depths: Mr. Ratburn is often seen by the Arthur gang as a cruel teacher who has no life outside of making kids miserable. At the same time, he likes Spooky Poo, and he volunteers as a puppeteer for children's puppet shows. Oh and of course, he goes giddy over cake.
Nice Guy: He pushes his students to be the best that they can be, and won't take any nonsense from them. Overall, he's a really good guy.
Not So Fast: When and if he does let students off the hook, he'll call for a tougher assignment to make up for it.
Oh Crap: In "Cents-less", he and his class go without spending money for a weekend. Unfortunately, he forgets to buy food before announcing the assignment. He puts on a puppet show to barter for some food.
Sadist Teacher/Stern Teacher: The kids complain about Ratburn being this. Also frequently subverted when they realize he's not that bad of a guy (just a little strict and a bit too obssessed with handing out assignments) and he's actually succeeding in teaching them things.
Herbert Francis HaneyMild-mannered, well-to-do, absent-minded bear principal of Lakewood Elementary School. Often involved in episodes taking place at the school, though he is also involved in community work.
Butt Monkey: The early seasons often had some form of bad luck or misfortune happening to him, usually in the form of things falling on him, from raw hamburgers, to baseballs, to a bucket of popcorn, to Binky Barnes.
Everyone Went to School Together: Attended the same school as Mr. Read and Mr. Ratburn. Even back then, as shown in the old videos in S1's "Arthur's Almost Boring Day", he had bad luck.
Edward Edsel "Ed" CrosswireUsed-car salesman who is Muffy's father and somehow independently wealthy.
Honest John's Dealership: Subverted. He's not into false advertising, but is very...aggressive when it comes to selling cars.
Meaningful Name: An Edsel was a type of car made by Ford known as a commercial failure, but one of the meanings of the name itself is "rich."