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What are some important quotes from "A Retrieved Reformation" by O. Henry, and what do...

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BookLover99 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 25, 2013 at 12:54 AM via web

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What are some important quotes from "A Retrieved Reformation" by O. Henry, and what do they mean?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 25, 2013 at 3:55 PM (Answer #1)

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O. Henry's sentimental story begins with the parole of Jimmy Valentine, who receives his papers "in a tired kind of way" since he has expected to be released seven months earlier because of powerful friends on the outside.

1. The warden tells Jimmy, 

"Brace up, and make a man of yourself. You're not a bad fellow at heart. Stop cracking safes, and live straight."

But, Jimmy denies having done any such thing, and the warden just laughs. Here, however, the keen warden has perceived a certain quality in Jimmy's basic nature that he hopes Valentine will foster when he is returned to society. This statement of the warden foreshadows what will happen later in O. Henry's narrative.

2. Another example of foreshadowing occurs when Jimmy returns to his room and finds in the same spot

Ben Price's collar-button that had been torn from that eminent detective's shirt-gand when they had overpowered Jimmy to arrest him.

This quote establishes the fact that Ben Price knows Jimmy. Later, this detective reads about a series of robberies of bank safes; detecting Valentine's workings again, Price takes up the trail "of the elusive cracksman."

3. After Jimmy has returned to his illegal trade, he lands in a small town in Arkansas. There, in Elmore, as he walks toward the hotel, Jimmy notices a pretty young woman who passes him at the corner in order to enter the bank.

Jimmy looked into her eyes, forgot what he was, and became another man.

This is the reformation which the warden has urged Jimmy to seek, effected by love at first sight. Hurrying to the hotel, Jimmy registers and talks with the clerk about his coming to town to open a shoe buiness. "Was there an opening?"

4. After talking with the clerk,

Mr. Ralph Spencer, the phoenix that arose from Jimmy Valentine's ashes--ashes left by the flame of  sudden and alternative attack of love--remained in Elmore.

So reformed is Jimmy that he decides to give his safe-cracking tools to a friend, telling him in a letter "I wouldn't touch a dollar of another man's money now for a million" because his new love is "an angel." He writes that he will meet Billy at Sully's in Little Rock and give him the case.

5. However, as fate would have it, a family gathering of Annabel Adams's family comes by the hotel just as Jimmy prepares to leave; so, he runs up to his room to get his suitcase.When Annabel comments that the case is extremely heavy, "Ralph" tells her he has nickel-plated shoe-horns to return. The party goes to the bank to admire the new bank vault, so new that the clock has not been yet wound nor the combination set. Unnoticed, one of the children entered and the other imitates Mr. Banks, "shooting" the bolts. When the girl cries out, Mr. Banks moves the handles but cannot open this vault. The mother is frantic, so Annabel ironically asks Jimmy if he can do something. He requests the rose she wears and oddly places it in his vest pocket as he resumes his true identity. 

With that act Ralph D. Spencer passed away and Jimmy Valentine took his place.

6. After the rescue of the child, Jimmy gathers his things and starts to depart the bank. However, he is stopped at the door by detective Ben Price who has trailed him. Jimmy says, "well let's go. I don't know that is makes much difference now."

And then Ben Price acted rather strangely.

"Guess you're mistaken, Mr Spencer," he said. "Don't believe I recognize you. Your buggy's waiting for you, ain't it?"

Jimmy has his "retrieved reformation."

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