The Importance of Family

Hannah Tinti expresses the importance of a stable family in The Good Thief. The mid-nineteenth century New England that Tinti describes is dangerous and chaotic. The American army is fighting Native Americans in the West, and Ren will join them if he is not adopted before he reaches adulthood. Ren dreads his future and dreams of being adopted into a family. For Ren, a family will offer emotional warmth, a warm bed, clothing, and home-cooked food. Essentially, Ren is dreaming of finding an identity within the context of a family. Although Ren is adopted, he does not receive the home he craves when he leaves St. Anthony’s. Instead, he quickly finds himself in the company of thieves, murderers, and gangsters.

Although Tinti highlights the adventure inherent in the life that Benjamin and Tom lead, she does not endorse life on the road. Benjamin often tells Ren to lead a life without attachment, but Ren consistently chooses to treat the people around him with compassion. Before long, he finds himself living amongst a surrogate family, one composed of odd characters like Mrs. Sands and her brother, a dwarf who lives on the roof of the boarding house. By the end of the text, Ren learns his true name, but the most important thing he finds is the stability offered by his surrogate family.


Many of the characters in The Good Thief are in search of redemption. Ren is given a copy of The Lives of the Saints to take with him when he leaves St. Anthony’s, which invites the reader to interpret the title as an allusion to Saint Dismas, the “good thief” crucified with Jesus. Dismas is considered the patron saint of thieves and the condemned, and he is considered to have found redemption for his crimes.

Benjamin is a thief, but it is not easy to tell whether he is good. He has a sordid past and is a wanted man for his many crimes. However, he may be more strongly haunted by his failure to provide for his...

(The entire section is 832 words.)