The Good Thief: A Novel

by Hannah Tinti

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Chapter 33 Summary and Analysis

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Summary

McGinty yells for the Top Hat and the Bowler, who shout for more hat boys in the hallway. As more hat boys fill the room, McGinty orders them to “Bring him...Bring him now.” The hat boys run from the office, down the stairs, and across the factory floor as the mousetrap girls watch in awe. All of them stop working to stare except Jenny, who continues sawing and stacking planks of wood. Ren watches everything from the office window. McGinty is delighted and smacks Ren on the shoulder, saying, ”Yah did it fah me, boy!”

The door opens, and Benjamin Nab enters the room. He looks badly hurt, with what appears to be a broken arm and bruises all over his face. A piece of blue cloth is wrapped around his head, and it is completely soaked with blood. McGinty tells Benjamin that he suspected that he was Ren’s father “right from the staht.” Benjamin sees Ren and smiles, revealing his broken front teeth and split lip. He gives Ren his hand and tells him that he heard that he “told them quite a tale” and that he hopes to have played “a good part.” Ren says that he thought Benjamin had abandoned them and that he had left North Umbrage, but Benjamin says he “wouldn’t dream of it.” He makes eye contact with Ren and says that if Ren can “remember how to pray, this might be a good time to do it.”

McGinty reveals that he has been keeping Benjamin in the factory basement because he suspected that Benjamin was Ren’s father. He says that “No one but a fatha wouldha picked a cripple outta that orphanage.” Ren insists that he made up the story, but McGinty does not respond. He opens the desk drawer, pulls out a pistol, and begins loading it. He looks almost disappointed when the chamber is full. Benjamin begins his own story, saying that he “didn’t know about the baby” until she had passed away. McGinty calls Benjamin a liar, and Benjamin presses Ren’s hand. Ren now knows that Benjamin “had already claimed him as a son, long before Ren had claimed him as a father.” McGinty predicted that Ren would say that Benjamin is his father the entire time Ren was locked in the storage room.

McGinty nods to the hat boys. The Top Hat shoves Ren away from Benjamin and the Bowler throws a cord around Benjamin’s neck, “so quickly that Benjamin didn’t even take a breath.” He tries to remove the cord but cannot, and he kicks his legs against the desk. McGinty says, “Enough,” and the Bowler pulls the cord from Benjamin’s neck. He falls to the ground, coughing and gasping for air. McGinty tells him that the brief hanging was “fah wasting my time,” and Benjamin says that he wants to write a will. McGinty questions whether Benjamin has anything valuable to leave to anyone, and Benjamin says that he can leave his body to Ren so he can sell it. McGinty considers Benjamin’s request and finally gives him some paper and a gold pen with which to write his will. Benjamin begins writing quickly, “as if he had been thinking of [the words] a long time, memorized how they should be phrased and in what order of consequence.” He gives the will to McGinty, saying that it “needs to be witnessed.” McGinty grabs the paper and signs it, tossing the gold pen onto the floor. He says, “Done,” and Benjamin echoes him before sitting on the floor and touching the blue cloth around his head.

McGinty...

(This entire section contains 1628 words.)

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picks up the pistol, saying that it is time for Benjamin to do “some ansahring.” Ren grips the edge of the desk, which is covered with polishing oil. He looks at the piece of his collar on the floor, and at the letters of his name. The letters “stared up at him like a sign,” and Ren picks the collar up. His fingers stain the fabric with the oil from the desk. McGinty scowls at Ren as he shoves the collar towards him, but “something changed in his face” as he examines the embroidered letters. He asks where Ren received the collar, and Ren responds that it was at Saint Anthony’s. McGinty says that it proves nothing, but Ren disagrees, saying that it “proves she loved us” and that “she meant to take his name.” McGinty says that the collar only “proves that she was a lousy sewah” and tosses it inside a desk drawer. Ren watches as his name vanishes, and now “there was nothing left...It was over.” McGinty’s expression changes, and he pulls out a small glass jar that is full of “strikingly yellow liquid.” Ren realizes that it is Ichy’s urine, remembering that he was the one who put the jar in McGinty’s desk.

The Top Hat and the Bowler look very distressed—and if “there was ever a time to play innocent, Ren knew that it was now.” Benjamin, in the meantime, makes his way to the window that overlooks the factory floor. He holds the blue cloth in his hand “like a flag,” as though he is trying to get someone’s attention. McGinty unscrews the jar and holds it to his nose, and his face turns dark red with rage when he realizes what is inside. He grabs Ren by the jacket and shoves him onto the table, causing papers and pens to fall to the ground. A lamp topples and shatters. McGinty calls Ren a “filthy little bastad,” and Ren insists that it was not him. However, McGinty says that it must be Ren because no one else was in the office and no one else would have had the opportunity. He presses the gun under Ren’s chin, pushing hard enough that Ren struggles to breathe. He reaches around for something to grab, and his hand finds the jar. He picks it up and throws Ichy’s urine in McGinty’s face.

McGinty presses his back against the window, his yellow suit soaked with yellow urine. The hat boys grab Ren as Benjamin frantically waves the blue cloth above his head “like it was going to save their very lives.” Suddenly, a loud boom erupts and the window glass fractures. Shards of sharp glass fly everywhere; the hat boys drop to the floor with hands over their faces, and Ren retreats under the desk. His arm has been cut by tiny pieces of glass. He looks around the room, and McGinty is standing in front of the shattered window. A “blooming of red” is expanding across his chest. The Bowler helps McGinty sit down on the floor while the Top Hat runs to the window, a pistol in hand. He bellows to the girls below, demanding to know who shot McGinty. They continue working as though they did not notice what happened. Only Jenny appears to be different: her face is flushed as she bends over her work.

McGinty tries to move, but the Bowler keeps him in place and assures him that they will call for a doctor. He objects, ordering them to “Get tha boy.” Ren is pulled from under the desk as McGinty tries to breathe, but every inhalation causes more blood to expand across his chest. His eyes are fixed on Ren “as if he expected something from him.” He closes his eyes and asks “Mahgret” to “open tha door.” Then, he dies.

Analysis

Like Ren, Benjamin Nab now seems to vacillate between pragmatic survivalism and religious idealism when he is faced with the likelihood that his usual approach to saving himself will not work. However, we cannot be entirely certain that Benjamin is earnest when he mirrors Ren’s usual reliance on the ideals of loyalty and morality. His suggestion that Ren pray for them may only be a form of showmanship intended to influence everyone in the room. Furthermore, though he assures Ren that he would never abandon him, Tom, and the twins, we cannot help but remember that Benjamin was imprisoned after being let go. While Ren genuinely acts out of character by borrowing from Benjamin’s strategy of manipulative storytelling in chapter 32, Benjamin may only be adapting his usual pragmatic approach in order to survive.

Loyalty remains a strong theme amid the climactic events in McGinty’s office. However, the novel seems to suggest that loyalty can be misguided, particularly if it is expressed through acts of revenge or of selfishness. McGinty’s intense hatred of Ren and of Benjamin is, for example, is rooted in the almost possessive loyalty that he seems to feel for his sister. Given everything we have learned about McGinty’s character, it is likely that his rage for Benjamin is more about his belief that Benjamin stole an object that he valued. In McGinty’s case, loyalty is more about violent retribution than about love for his sister. Benjamin’s appearance of loyalty towards Ren and their makeshift family is also questionable. Given everything we know about Benjamin’s character, it is likely that his brand of loyalty is rooted in self-interest. Though he assures Ren that he would never leave them behind, we cannot forget that he did not leave North Umbrage because he was prevented from doing so. We have witnessed Benjamin acting out of selfishness, or at least in the interest of self-preservation, many times. He would have left Ren in the cemetery with Dolly, just as he left Ren in McGinty’s office without so much as a glance. The novel therefore raises the question of what loyalty really means and if one can truly be loyal.

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Chapter 34 Summary and Analysis