In “A Retrieved Reformation” what ways are Jimmy Valentine and Ralph Spencer alike/different?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Since Jimmy Valentine and Ralph Spencer are the same person, there must be similarities in the hearts of each persona, while there can be differences in mental attitudes.

Similarities

  •  “You’re not a bad fellow at heart,” the warden tells Jimmy when he is released from prison; this remark indicates that Jimmy has an intrinsic decency that comes out in Ralph Spencer when he cannot leave Agatha in the safe.
  • After Jimmy is released from prison, he heads to a restaurant for a good meal; on the way out he "tossed a quarter into the hat of a blind man." This altruism indicates that Jimmy is the same man as Ralph, who loves Annabel and who is willing to return to prison in order to save the little niece of Annabel.
  • Despite his love for Annabel, as the shoe salesman Ralph Spencer, who is an upright citizen, he is, nevertheless, deceptive in disguising himself as someone else, as is Jimmy, who lies to the warden about having robbed a bank.

Differences

  • When Annabel Adams passes Jimmy on the corner of the street, he "looked into her eyes, forgot what he was, and became another man." Shortly after this, Jimmy registers at the Planters' Hotel as Ralph D. Spencer, a new man. Then, he changes his occupation in life, as well, and becomes a fictitious person, rather than a real man.
  • Jimmy looks out for himself while Ralph sacrifices his well-being for the safety of a child dear to his beloved Annabel.
  • With his "retrieved reformation" from detective Ben Price, Jimmy Valentine "dies" and Ralph Spencer lives.
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