The Good Thief: A Novel

by Hannah Tinti

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Chapter 25 Summary and Analysis

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Summary

The storage room is small and there are no windows. Wooden crates sit in piles against the walls, and a small writing table sits in the corner near two filing cabinets. Ren recognizes another set of gold pens that are just like the ones in McGinty’s office. There is also a pot-bellied stove full of ashes. He sits on a stool by the writing desk, feeling devastated. He wants to believe that Benjamin still plans to rescue him, but the morning wears on and Benjamin does not appear. Ren thinks about all of the ways that Benjamin has let him down, but suddenly he realizes that he did the same thing to Dolly when he abandoned him in the graveyard. Ren imagines Dolly walking down the road, calling for him and coming across the dead body of their horse. He remembers Pilot shooting the horse in the head, in the exact place where the farmer once kissed her when saying goodbye.

Ren wishes he were with Mrs. Sands. He is certain she would not have left him. He imagines her tearing through the factory, bludgeoning the hat boys with her broom and carrying Ren away. The scene would be “just like one of Benjamin’s stories.” However, Mrs. Sands never arrives. The day moves on and Ren becomes hungry and uneasy. He rifles through the wooden crates piled around the room and even prays, asking Saint Anthony to help him to find something that might help him escape. However, the crates are only packed with paper, sawdust, and springs. One of them is full of broken mouse traps that remind him of the ones in Mrs. Sands kitchen. He goes through the desk and finds notebooks full of mousetrap designs, “drawing after drawing of intricate, tiny killing machines.” All of them feature “every possible way to rid the world of something unwanted.”

Ren paces until he becomes so dizzy that he does not hear McGinty enter. The fat man is holding a paper bag “the size and shape of a human head.” He places the bag on the writing table and tells Ren that it is for him. The bag is packed with different types of candy. Ren has never eaten candy and is unsure about consuming it. He wonders if McGinty is trying to poison him. He remembers Mister Bowers pulling out his dentures and telling him that “This is what happens to people who eat jam.” Ren declines the candy, but McGinty orders him to eat a peppermint stick, so Ren shoves the whole thing in his mouth. The candy is so good that he no longer cares about whether it is poisoned or not. Ren follows the peppermint stick with chocolate, rock candy, taffy, flavored wax, and Turkish delight.

McGinty sees the notebook of mousetrap sketches and asks Ren if he looked at them. Ren says that he did, and McGinty flips to a page with a sketch of a trap with a miniature guillotine. McGinty recounts his origins as a rat-catcher, listing the different types of rats he used to catch. He says rats will “eat a dog, or a baby, if yah give ‘em tha chance.” He turns to another page with a drawing of a group of rats trying to shove a child through a hole in the wall. He says that while mice are not as intelligent as rats, they reproduce faster. When he began making mousetraps, they sold very well—but soon the mice would “figure ‘em out” and “pass tha infahmation down tha line, from one mouse ta tha next.” The mice’s...

(This entire section contains 1799 words.)

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ability to adapt to his mousetrap led McGinty to design many different kinds of traps “so they forget what kills ‘em.”

Suddenly, McGinty closes the notebook and tells Ren that he was an “ugly baby,” saying “yah don’t look hah...yah don’t look like harat all.” He removes a pocket watch from his jacket and pops it open, revealing a photograph of a beautiful young woman with “hair the color of chestnuts, her skin so pale it glowed.” McGinty says that the woman is his sister, and that she told him that Ren had died after he lost his hand. McGinty declares that he “shouldha known that she was lying.” Margaret McGinty was Ren’s mother. Ren cannot believe it—he tells McGinty that he must have made a mistake. McGinty only responds that he never makes mistakes.

Ren feels sick. He vomits over the corner of the table, into a box of mousetraps. He begins to cry, saying he wants to go home. However, he does not have a home anymore. McGinty asks Ren again if he is an orphan and asks if anyone ever came to Saint Anthony’s to claim him. Ren laments that no one ever claimed him, that he does not have a family—“I don’t have anyone!” McGinty says that “now yah got me.” Ren imagines living in the mousetrap factory, living in the storage room for the rest of his life. He does not believe that McGinty will treat him like family, so McGinty declares that he will prove he is telling the truth. He takes Ren by the arm and leads him from the room. The hallway is lined with hat boys, who immediately follow them as they pass by.

They leave the factory, step into the street, and walk towards the town square. There is a church at the other end of the common, and Ren has a strange feeling that he has seen it before. He suddenly realizes that it is the place where Dolly was buried. McGinty stops before the iron gate and unlocks the same lock that Benjamin had picked with a needle. The hat boys surround the entire church as McGinty pulls Ren inside the graveyard. They walk past many rows of graves until turning away from the church, toward a mausoleum as big as a carriage house. A stone stairway leads to a portico that is protected by another gate. Marble urns sit on each side of the gate, and they are full of pink and yellow roses. McGinty unlocks the gate and shoves Ren inside. The room is small, chilly, and dark, with a low ceiling and a white table sitting against the wall. It is covered with dried leaves and dirt. McGinty gestures to the table, and Ren sees that it is in fact a tomb with the inscription “Margaret Ann McGinty” upon it. Beneath her name are the same words that are on McGinty’s pistol: “The Souls of the Just Are in the Hand of God.” Ren touches the letters, finding the marble polished and free of scratches and other marks.

Ren imagines Margaret’s picture in McGinty’s pocket watch, which he stole right before they left the storage room. He reaches into his pocket and touches the metal, feeling the tiny clock ticking inside. McGinty stands near him, rubbing his face “as if he were trying to wipe off the emotion that had settled there.” He shoves Ren toward another table, which turns out to be a coffin with the name “Reginald Edward McGinty” inscribed upon it. McGinty turns to Ren, saying that they will “see if yoah in theah.” Pilot enters the room, followed by four hat boys. They each carry a metal bar, which they use to pry open the top of the coffin. There is a small bundle at the bottom, and it is wrapped in a cloth sack. Ren recognizes the fabric beneath the sack to be the same linen that his collar is made from—the collar on which his name was embroidered. He feels as though he might vomit again, even though he understands that there is no way that he is in the coffin.

McGinty cuts the cloth sack open with Pilot’s knife and begins to laugh. The sack is full of rocks of many colors, shapes, and textures. Ren sees a pair of small stockings and realizes that someone had sewn the stones into a set of baby clothes, which McGinty had torn through with the knife. Ren picks up one of the stones. It is “unremarkable...no boy at Saint Anthony’s would have saved it.”

Analysis

Ren’s yearning for belongingness is finally satisfied when he discovers that Margaret McGinty is his mother. However, it is uncertain whether he will realize the ideals of love and loyalty that he associates with family life—especially because, as in the case of his surrogate family with Benjamin and Tom, he still does not have a mother. Furthermore, his family currently consists of a factory owner who exploits his workers and oppresses the people of North Umbrage by dispatching his legions of violent “hat boys” to control them. McGinty seems to be just as self-serving and pragmatic as Benjamin, though he is driven by greed and not survival.

The evolution of Ren’s character mirrors his quest for belongingness, particularly because his identity development—the type of person he wants and believes himself to be—impacts his ability to belong. In order to survive in Benjamin’s group of convicts, Ren was forced to identify as coldly pragmatic and unempathetic. His inclination, however, is to be lovingly loyal, especially towards people who express unconditional care for him and his well-being. Yet, when Ren was faced with his first true test of loyalty, he chose to abandon his friend Dolly in a cemetery in order to stay with Benjamin. Ren realizes this as he ruminates over Benjamin’s betrayal. Now that he has found his real family, the reader will see what is expected of him in order to belong and how his identity continues to take shape the more he learns about his origins.

Also connected to the theme of belongingness is the notebook of mousetrap designs, which Ren perceives as being a collection of devices that offer “every possible way to rid the world of something unwanted”—or, specifically, to rid the world of something that does not belong. The ridiculous proposition of a group of mice carrying off an infant is reminiscent of propaganda that carries a chilling message of genocide—particularly because the threat of persecution on account of being hated and feared by society has already been expressed by the dwarf. Those who are persecuted find it necessary to hide from those who would do them harm. The novel places grotesque characters like the dwarf, Dolly, and Ren, on the same level as rodents or other small prey that must hide for survival. Hannah Tinti's work therefore suggests that society, at least in Ren’s world, dehumanizes othered bodies so severely that they are perceived as pests to be eliminated.

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