The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt

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What are the themes of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch?

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About The GoldfinchBooklist comments,

Tartt’s trenchant, defiant, engrossing, and rocketing novel conducts a grand inquiry into the mystery and sorrow of survival, beauty and obsession, and the promise of art.

A modern bildungsroman, The Goldfinch has themes of Dickensian proportion in the angsts and joys of maturation, as well as the promise of the aesthetic. For, the painting that Theo, the protagonist, steals from the bombed art museum becomes for him an inspiration, a reminder of his mother who died in the museum bombing-“Everything came alive in her company; she cast a charmed theatrical light”- and it leads him into several conflicts and the underworld of art.

This modern-day Oliver Twist is in search of stability in his life and shares some similar experiences such as being whisked away from his former life by his gambler father, a Fagin-like exploiter. He meets Boris and lives a life of instability and danger; however, throughout the narrative, the trope of the painting "this lonely little captive," provides Theo the impetus to continue his memory of his beloved mother and find himself. For, Theo observes,

The painting was the still point where it all hinged: dreams and signs, past and future, luck and fate.

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