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A Retrieved Reformation

by O. Henry

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Student Question

Why is Jimmy visiting Little Rock in "A Retrieved Reformation"?

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In "A Retrieved Reformation," Jimmy Valentine, now known as Ralph D. Spencer, intends to travel to Little Rock and meet an "old pal" at Sullivan's place. There he plans on giving this man his case of safe-breaking tools.

Ralph Spencer wants the criminal safe burglar named Jimmy Valentine to go out of business and disappear from life. For he wants to make a new life as a respectable citizen of Elmore, where love has transformed him. Ironically, he has come to Elmore, Arkansas, after learning of the town's new bank-safe, but he has been immediately smitten by the beautiful daughter of the man who owns the town bank. When he first arrives, this young woman crosses the street and passes him on a street corner; there "Jimmy Valentine looked into her eyes, forgot what he was, and became another man" in order to woo beautiful Annabel Adams.

No longer interested in safe-cracking, Jimmy goes to the local hotel and registers as Ralph D. Spencer. He then asks the hotel clerk about the shoe business in town, pretending that he is thinking of opening a store in Elmore. Soon after his decision to remain in Elmore a few days, "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" as a respectable store owner. He succeeds in winning the heart of Annabel as well, and they plan to be married. Because he wants a new life, Ralph knows he must cast off everything connected to his old life as Jimmy Valentine.

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