What is the significance of title The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt? I have read this novel and its awesome, but now I have to write 10,000 words on it. Which points should I discuss?

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is indeed an awesome novel! And there is so much to say about it that you will certainly be able to write 10,000 words.  Remember, that is approximately 33 pages, and it might be easier to think about it that way.  There are two ways to think about the significance of the title: first, how it drives the plot, and second, how it operates as a symbol. 

To recapitulate the plot, very briefly, "The Goldfinch" sets off the entire novel. It is when Theo and his mother are looking at the painting that his mother dies, he first spies Pippa, and is directed by the dying request of Pippa's uncle to take the painting from the museum. Everything that happens in the book stems from this moment. The reader sees the painting as really the cause of the death of Theo's mother, which is the central dividing point in his life, as he says, "Her death the dividing mark: Before and After" (7). Then, of course, throughout the entire story, Theo is hiding the painting or trying to rescue it. What choices Theo makes and how he acts are rooted in his taking possession of the painting. The painting opens the door for him to an entire new world that he must navigate. Because the painting is the central plot element, you will have a great deal to write about.  Try to organize around settings, time and place, to discuss how "The Goldfinch" drives the plot.

The painting is also, of course, a powerful symbol in the novel. It symbolizes ideas and characters.  Have a look at the painting itself and read the passages about its creator. (I have included a link to it below.) The goldfinch is shackled, a prisoner. The artist is said to have lost most of his creations in an explosion, but this painting is one of the few that survived.  So, the painting itself represents imprisoned nature and lost beauty.  For Theo, the painting is first a symbol of his mother.  He shares that it "made me think of pictures I'd seen of my mother when she was small: a dark-capped finch with steady eyes" (27). When the bombing in the museum occurs, he cannot rescue his mother, but he does rescue the painting, so in addition to being a symbol of his mother, it is a symbol of his loss. When he is forced to conceal the painting, he is hiding its beauty from the world, much as some art collectors will do, wanting the selfish pleasure of beauty without having to share it. So, to some degree, the painting represents this idea as well.  The painting is also a symbol of Theo's quest, to somehow live his life happily in the "After" that the painting has created, to get the girl, and to do whatever is right and just about the painting.  It is also possible that the painting is symbol of Pippa, who is beautiful, with "milky white" (28) skin, a redhead with a "small, tense frame" (28). Is she imprisoned? Is her beauty not to be captured by Theo as he has captured the painting?  Or is Theo the goldfinch, captured by the painting of the same name and forces beyond his control? 

Focus first on the title's significance as the driving force in the plot and then on how it operates as a symbol. For each section of your paper, remember that you are expected to quote from the text to support your ideas, and while no more than 10% of your paper should be direct quotes, that is still 1,000 words for your word count. Good luck to you. I think you will enjoy writing your paper, and we are always here if you have specific questions about your content development.    

user7674739 | Student

Thanks.... Can u explain about absurdity of life in this novel? any theory which I can apply? any suggestions?