The Good Thief: A Novel

by Hannah Tinti

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Chapter 24 Summary and Analysis

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Summary

The people of North Umbrage quickly retreat as the riders approach McGinty’s mousetrap factory. Two of the “hat boys” were dispatched to carry the bodies away, and the remaining men carried their prisoners on horseback—except Tom, who was dragged behind one of the horses on a repurposed plank from the wagon. He screamed for part of the journey but passed out from the pain. Ren rode on the front of Pilot’s saddle, staring at the man’s red gloves as they gripped the reins of his horse. After reaching the factory, the hat boys untie Tom, and Pilot jerks Ren down from the saddle. Brom and Ichy are covered in dry, cracked mud, and Benjamin’s face is so swollen that he is nearly unrecognizable.

Pilot bangs on the factory door, which is opened by another man in a hat. They walk inside, and Ren notes that the factory “smell[s] like a church—chilled, dank, and slightly earthy.” From all around, they hear the sounds of machines working. They reach the center of the factory, where all of the mousetrap girls are working in rows. Girls in one aisle stack and cut planks of wood with revolving blades. Girls in the next aisle assemble the wooden pieces with glue brushes. Still more girls set the vises and nail corners. The girls at the center of the room work with metal: they affix hinges, bend corners, and rotate cranks. Ren recognizes one of the girls as the one with the harelip. Her hands are covered with grease. She glances at Benjamin’s swollen face before quickly returning to work, fitting snipped wires onto the mousetraps. Suddenly, a girl shrieks, and other girls run over to investigate. The girl cut her hand on one of the blades. She holds her hand to her mouth and blood runs down to the sawdust at her feet. The floor manager orders the others to return to work and tries to give the injured girl a rag for her hand. She stumbles, and he wraps her hand in the rag, guiding her out of the room. He returns and marches the girl with the harelip over to the revolving saw, declaring that she has been promoted. She rolls her eyes and, after looking at Benjamin one last time, begins working at her new job.

Pilot leads Benjamin, Ren, Brom, and Ichy up a staircase to an office with a large wooden desk at its center. The hat boys carry Tom into the room and set him on the carpet. Pilot and the hat boys leave, locking the door behind them. Ren asks Benjamin what they will do, and Benjamin says that they need to figure out “what he knows” and “what he wants.” He reaches into his mouth and pulls out a tooth. Ren examines the office, noting that McGinty is so wealthy that he could not possibly want anything more. The room is lavishly decorated, and there is a window. Benjamin walks over to it and looks down upon the factory floor. He presses his hand against the window as though he is looking for an opening that would allow them to escape. The window is secure, however.

Ichy announces that he has to “use the privy,” and Brom tells him that he should have spoken up earlier. Ren cannot help but suspect that their horrible luck was brought on by the twins and wishes that they were not here and that he had never been their friend. He feels bad for Ichy, though, and empties a jar of pencils for him to use. After Ichy is finished,...

(This entire section contains 1776 words.)

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Ren screws the lid back on the jar and places it in one of the desk drawers. Tom begins to groan and Benjamin examines his broken leg, causing Tom to scream. Benjamin tears a strip of cloth from his shirt and wraps it around the leg, and Tom screams for Brom and Ichy. The twins stare, but do not move. Ren orders them to go to Tom, and they walk over, each boy taking a hand. Tom passes out again, and Benjamin shows Ren how to apply pressure to the wound in Tom’s leg. Ren asks if they should request a doctor, but Benjamin only shakes his head.

The Top Hat and the Straw Hat enter the room with their guns in hand. They stand on either side of the doorway as Pilot walks through, holding the door open for a man “nearly as fat as Brother Joseph.” It is Mr. McGinty. He is wearing a yellow suit with shirt sleeves tied with pink ribbons. He points at Benjamin, and Pilot says, “Nab.” McGinty asks why he has never heard of Benjamin, and Pilot explains that Benjamin was not worth knowing. McGinty observes that Benjamin is now worthy of their attention. He speaks as though “his words...were passing through a grater.” He asks about the children, and Benjamin says that they are their “lookouts.” McGinty looks down at Tom, who is bleeding onto the rug. Benjamin attempts telling his story again, explaining that he dug up his sister and her family “so that we could give them a Christian burial” after they all died of a fever.

Benjamin smiles, but McGinty dismisses his story and offers one of his own about “a pig who liked ta eat and sleep and roll in tha shit sometimes.” The pig’s owner “came along and cut his throat and cleaned out his guts and ate his ass fah bacon. End of story.” Benjamin’s smile disappears, and McGinty accuses him of getting his “fingas in tha graveyahd,” declaring that he will not allow such a thing in his town. McGinty addresses Pilot, asking how much Benjamin is “wohth.” Pilot responds that Benjamin is worth $700, and McGinty observes that Benjamin “musta done something very intahresting ta be wohth that much.” Pilot pulls an advertisement from his pocket. It is a wanted poster that accuses Benjamin of a long list of crimes, including arson, robbing a bank, assault with a deadly weapon, and impersonating a police officer. Benjamin turns pale as Pilot reads from the advertisement, and McGinty takes out a gun from one of the desk drawers. He loads the pistol and asks Benjamin if he is “a religious man,” ordering him to read the inscription on the barrel of the pistol. Benjamin reads: “The souls of the just are in the hand of God.” He asks if Benjamin has ever felt the hand of God, but Benjamin does not answer. McGinty says that he could shoot Benjamin or turn him in for the $700. If Benjamin is arrested, he will be hanged.

McGinty suddenly notices Tom and says that Tom will ruin the rug with his blood. Brom and Ichy drop Tom’s hands “as if he had suddenly become contaminated.” Ren waits for Benjamin to come up with an even better story that will save them, but Benjamin remains silent. Ren understands then that he will have to step up. He removes his jacket and begins to clean Tom’s blood with it. The room is silent, and he turns to see that McGinty is staring at him, his eyes moving from Ren’s wrist to his face. He asks Benjamin who Ren is, and Benjamin only says that Ren is “no one.” McGinty motions with the gun and Pilot presses his gun to the back of Benjamin’s head. Everyone falls silent except for Benjamin, who begins to make a choking sound “as if he were underwater.” The Top Hat leads Ren toward McGinty, who smells like peppermints. McGinty grabs Ren’s left arm and looks at his wrist, holding on tighter as Ren tries to pull away. McGinty uses his fingers to examine the scar and presses his palm against Ren’s wrist until it hurts. He asks Ren where he came from, and Ren responds that he is from Saint Anthony’s and that he is an orphan. McGinty tells Ren that he is lucky and nods to Pilot. Pilot lowers his gun, and Benjamin tells McGinty that he will pay him more than $700 if he lets them go. McGinty does not want Benjamin’s money, however; he wants him to leave North Umbrage and to leave Ren behind. He tells Benjamin to say goodbye. Ren expects Benjamin to refuse, but Benjamin says goodbye. Pilot promptly removes Ren from the room, dragging him down the stairs and across the factory floor. Most of the mousetrap girls ignore him. He and the girl with the harelip make eye contact for a moment before Pilot conducts him through another door. He shoves Ren into a storage room full of papers and boxes, repeating that Ren is indeed lucky. He closes the door and locks it behind him.

Analysis

Part 3 begins with a suspenseful walk through the mysterious McGinty mousetrap factory, which reminds Ren of a church because it smells “chilled, dank, and slightly earthy.” Ren seems to find many similarities between McGinty’s factory and Saint Anthony’s, down to the “intricate red brickwork” he notices in chapter 14. McGinty even reminds Ren of Brother Joseph because of his corpulence. Hannah Tinti’s connection of the mousetrap factory to Saint Anthony’s further solidifies the novel’s overall comparison of socially-endorsed and socially-condemned practices that depend on the exploitation of bodies. The hypocrisy of accepting—however begrudgingly—the cruelty done to factory workers, hospital patients, and orphans while condemning grave robbing, thievery, and prostitution is glaring. The novel's themes seem to redefine what it means to be a criminal by subtly criticizing people of power for building wealth on the backs of the suffering lower classes.

In the commercial world of the mousetrap factory, Ren learns that the ideals of love, loyalty, and empathy do not exist. Individuals are as interchangeable as the parts of a machine, as is evident by the nonchalant response of the floor manager when one of his workers injures her hand on a revolving blade. The girl is escorted from the floor and the girl with the harelip is ordered to take her place so that efficiency is hardly compromised. Later, Ren is exchanged with a similar nonchalance when McGinty grants Benjamin freedom but orders him to leave Ren behind. Ren seems reluctant to give up his idealistic belief that Benjamin genuinely cares about him underneath his pragmatic and detached exterior. He expects Benjamin to protest and despite ample evidence that Benjamin is incapable of or unwilling to give love or loyalty, is stunned when Benjamin abandons him without so much as a glance.

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Chapter 25 Summary and Analysis