A Retrieved Reformation

by O. Henry

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How are Jimmy Valentine and Ralph Spencer alike and different in "A Retrieved Reformation"?

Quick answer:

Jimmy Valentine and Ralph Spencer, characters in "A Retrieved Reformation", are both the same person with differing personalities. They share skills in opening safes and both pretend to be someone they're not. However, their differences lie in their motives: Jimmy, a hardened criminal, is focused on financial gain from robbing banks, while Ralph, a created persona, strives to be an honest businessman to win Annabel's love.

Expert Answers

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Before he falls in love, it is a hardened criminal named Jimmy Valentine who ignores the warden's advice to "stop cracking safes and live straight. He pulls several "jobs"; then, he travels to Elmore, Arkansas, where he encounters a young lady,

...looked into her eyes, forgot what he was, and became another man.

  • How Jimmy Valentine and Ralph Spencer are similar
  1. They are both skilled in opening safes
  2. They are both the same man; therefore, because he is truly reformed, it is not just Ralph who is the decent person, it is Jimmy, too, as he sacrifices his freedom in order to rescue the girl locked in the safe, and he is ready to go with the police. For, he has been transformed into Ralph as the detective says, "Guess you're mistanken, Mr. Spencer....Don't believe I recognize you...."
  3. They both pretend. When the warden alludes to the "Springfield job," at his release, Jimmy says, "Why, warden, I never was in Springfield in my life." And, when Ralph Spencer is created, this persona is a pretense of a law-abiding citizen.
  • How Jimmy and Ralph are different
  1. Jimmy Valentine is a convicted criminal determined to continue robbing banks; however, Ralph Spencer is a man determined to be honest and straightforward in order to be worthy of the banker's daughter, Annabel.
  2. Jimmy is a safe-cracker; Ralph a businessman.

Jimmy Valentine thinks mostly of his financial gains; Ralph thinks of Annabel and attaining her love.

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