A Retrieved Reformation

by O. Henry

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Who is the character Jimmy Valentine in "A Retrieved Reformation"?

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Jimmy Valentine is the protagonist of the short story "A Retrieved Reformation." He is an ex-convict safecracker who got out of his four-year prison sentence early due to criminal connections. He intends to continue his lucrative life of crime until a chance encounter with a banker's lovely daughter. Falling in love quickly, he decides to go straight in order to be worthy of her. He works as a shoemaker in town and, some time later, he is engaged to the girl of his dreams, Annabel.

However, Jimmy is still being pursued by a detective determined to get him for his post-prison, pre-Annabel crimes. The stakes heighten when he must use his safecracking abilities to rescue a child locked by accident in his father-in-law's massive bank safe.

The Jimmy Valentine character would later go on to be featured in a 1910 play adaptation, which in turn inspired several film adaptations throughout the 1910s and 1920s.

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Jimmy Valentine is a professional thief, an expert safe-breaker no less. He's just been released from prison for this very crime, although he claims to the warden that he was innocent all along. Yet as soon as he is released from prison, he's up to his old tricks again. Ben Price, the detective hot on Jimmy's trail, recognizes his method of work; there's only one man who could be responsible for this spate of thefts in the Midwest.

But Jimmy has an unexpected change of heart. Upon arriving in a small town in Arkansas, he meets a young lady whose father owns the local bank. Jimmy wants to settle down, open a shoe repair store, and get married to the young lady. He writes a letter to Ben telling him that he's had enough of his former life and wants to give it up.

However, Jimmy's safecracking days are not quite over, as an unusual event causes him to take up his special tools for one last time.

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