A Retrieved Reformation

by O. Henry

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What conflicts exist in "A Retrieved Reformation"?  

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There are both internal and external conflicts in O. Henry's delightful story. The paroled safe-cracker, Jimmy Valentine continues his nefarious trade and, thus, creates an external conflict. Then, when he meets Annabel Adams, Valentine finds himself immersed in internal conflict.

  • Man vs. Society

After his release from prison and despite the warnings of the warden to "Stop cracking safes, and live straight," Valentine continues in his profession.

A week after the release of Valentine, 9762, there was a neat job of safe-burglary done in Richmond, Indiana, with no clue to the author....Two weeks after that a patented, improved, burglar-proof safe in Logansport was opened like a chesse...Then an old-fashioned bank-safe in Jefferson city...threw out of its crater ...five thousand dollars....

Ben Price, a dectective, recognizes Jimmy Valentine's work and begins to look for him in order to return Valentine to prison.

  • Man vs. Himself

While glorying in his success, Jimmy Valentine comes to Elmore, Arkansas, where a new vault is to be installed in the bank owned by a Mr. Adams. However, as fate would have it, Valentine, alias Ralph D. Spencer, falls in love with the banker's daughter, Annabel.

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

Deciding to give his burglary tools to another, Valentine is on his way to take the train to Little Rock, but is invited to see the new bank vault. In a strange twist of fate, a little girl shuts another playfully into this vault and "shot the bolts" of the door. Unfortunately, the new combination has not yet been set, so there is no way to open the vault. Jimmy Valentine knows that he can open this bank vault, but if he does, he will reveal his criminal past to his beloved. Nevertheless, he must save the child after his innocent fiancee pleads with him to do something. Disclosing the contents of his suitcase that was to pass to a friend, Valentine sets to work upon the vault; in ten minutes he has it open. In these short ten minutes, though, he has sacrificed his happy future, Valentine thinks.

But, his act of self-sacrifice for love does not go unnoticed, and Ben Price lets Valentine pass by him free to resume being Ralph D. Spencer.

















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