What would we do without Partridge? This dude, this "Pure," is almost the farthest thing from being pure. And you know what? That gives this book a smidge of levity. His cluelessness is kind of funny—not all the time, but we can't help but laugh when he tries to hide for safety under an OSR truck (14.30). This guy is utterly inept for most of the book, and it's hilariously painful to watch him attempt to find his mother by himself.
Let's take a look at when he first meets Pressia. He's outside of the Dome, people can tell he is a Pure by his face, he has no idea where he is, and he's a prime target for the "wretches." Remember, "Burn a Pure and breathe the ash / take his guts and make a sash" (3.5). And what does he do when Pressia says she lost her shoe?
… he's got her shoe. He holds it over his head like a prize. (16.18)
First of all, what ever happened to the age-old axiom: never talk to strangers (and don't retrieve their shoes for them)? Plus, why celebrate like a dog playing fetch when you're out in the open where people want to kill you? Oh, and another thing: he makes a reference to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz when talking to Pressia. Seriously: Partridge has street smarts like Ron Weasley has brown hair.
The Swan Wife Story, in particular, is the focal point of Partridge's obliviousness. After his mother told him the story, she says,
"It's just a story. But listen. Promise me you'll always remember it. Don't tell the story to your father. He doesn't like stories." (15.19)
And you know what Partridge thinks of when he's remembering the story? Lyda. That's right: his date to the dance. Come on, Partridge: use your noggin. The story is a message.
Bradwell understands what the story is about. He says, "But you do get it," after Partridge tells everyone he doesn't understand the message (38.68). And still, Partridge doesn't get it and has to have Bradwell spell out significance for him.
Sure, he might be a bit dimwitted and painfully awkward at times, but Partridge has a certain redeeming quality. There's something sort of epic about him.
In fact, he's a bit like Shakespeare's famous Melancholy Dane. Just like Hamlet, Partridge has a hesitation problem. Hamlet initially hesitates and can't make up his mind, but in Act V he is able to put his hesitation behind him and act on impulse. Similarly, we get the sense that Partridge—after an initial period of twiddling his thumbs—tackles any problem he encounters head on.
For your viewing pleasure, we present the scene where he escapes the Dome:
The final fan clicks backward, just one single inch, and Partridge dives through the last set of blades just as the fans begin to roar at his back, and the wind is drawn in like a deep unending breath from the other side of the last set of filters (10.52).
Partridge is just plain frustrating, just like Hamlet. He can't even realize that the Swan Wife Story is a message (which is pretty obvious for the reader), but he's brave enough to traverse the air-filtration system and risk being chopped into pieces by fans.
Oh, and like Hamlet, the dude has some serious daddy issues.
Essentially, Partridge establishes himself as an extremely complex character. Should we be laughing at his mistakes, or feel bad? Should we expect more, or expect less? Should we view him for his intentions, or should we focus on his blunders along the way? We can't answer these questions for you: we can just lay them out for you to ponder.