In Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord, why does Dottore Massimo refuse to agree to Scipio's plea to help Hornet?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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It is in Chapter 34 that, in tears, Scipio begs his father Dottore Massimo to help Hornet by at least finding her a home and his father refuses. We can glean from Massimo's characterization that he refuses simply because he is a hard, cold, and judgmental man. In this chapter, the police bring Hornet to Massimo for questioning because she was found in one of Massimo's abandoned theaters. The police believe Hornet and the other abandoned children found in the theater to be thieves. While this is true, the accusation of theft hardens Massimo's heart towards them, making it impossible for him to see that they became thieves in an effort to survive and their only real problem is simply that they are abandoned. We can glean the fact that the accusation of theft has hardened Massimo's heart towards the children based on his comment to Scipio, "Abandoned children, probably all little thieves" (p. 221). In other words, Massimo refuses to help Hornet simply because he is prejudiced against her. We can even see Massimo's selfishness in his next comment:

My word, children sometimes say the oddest things. So [the theater is] empty. Do you think that's reason enough to let all the tramps in the city squat there? (p. 221)

This is an excellent portrayal of his selfishness because he fails to see the illogic of allowing useful buildings to go abandoned when he could do something beneficial with them, such as turn them into homeless shelters. Hence, Massimo refuses to help Hornet when begged simply because he is prejudiced, hardhearted, cold, selfish, and possibly even blind to the needs of others.

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