The Good Thief: A Novel

by Hannah Tinti

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Chapter 35 Summary and Analysis

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Tom, Ren, Brom, and Ichy use pieces of the broken furniture and the stuffing from the sofa to build a fire. The kitchen is destroyed, with furniture and dishes broken up. Food is splattered on the ceiling, and the hearth is smeared with soot and ashes. Ren finds his bag beneath a shattered chamber pot and discovers that the jar of pickles had broken in the fight, and the lard was spread over the cloth. He begins peeling the remaining potatoes while Brom brings in water to boil. They add in lard with the potatoes, along with some dried parsley they found hanging on the ceiling. They solemnly talk about what happened to them as they pull little pieces of glass from the sour pickles that Ren had salvaged from his bag.

Tom remarks that Benjamin “has nine lives” when Ren finishes telling him what happened in the mousetrap factory. Ren asks if Benjamin will come back, but Tom shakes his head. Ren asks about what will happen to him, Brom, and Ichy, and Tom announces that he will be returning them to the orphanage because he “can’t feed and clothe three boys” when he “can’t provide for myself even.” Ren refuses to return to Saint Anthony’s, but Tom asks him if he really wants to live his life as a beggar or a thief on the streets. Ren realizes that he is already a thief and a beggar, but says nothing. Tom points out that Dolly was killed because he lived this way, but Ren says that Dolly was protecting him. Tom objects, saying that Dolly “was a killer” and that “he was made to die that way,” but Ren is not meant to have the same fate. Ren looks into the fire, looks around the kitchen, and thinks that the boarding house looks like it might collapse. They are “sitting in a pile of wreckage,” like “a sinking ship.”

Tom says that returning the boys to Saint Anthony’s will be “the one good thing I’ve ever done.” Ren does not respond. He thinks about how, after everything that he has gone through, he will end up back where he started. He pulls out Benjamin’s will and hands it to Tom, who reads it several times before breaking out in laughter. He hands the paper to Ren to read. The will says nothing about Benjamin, but it promises McGinty’s entire estate—other than the “payment of just debts and funeral charges”—to Ren. The will is signed by “Silas McGinty.” Ren asks Tom what the will means, and Tom responds that Ren now owns the mousetrap factory. Ren is puzzled and asks what he is supposed to do with a mousetrap factory. Ichy suggests that he make mousetraps.

Tom considers what Benjamin has done, concluding that he “must have planned it from the very beginning.” Ren thinks about Benjamin’s injuries, his teeth and his broken arm, and how he had easily written the will as though he had been thinking of the words for a long time. He held it out to McGinty, asking for a witness, but knew that McGinty would not bother to read the will. Ren remembers how Benjamin knew without being told that Father John had beaten Ren and how the farmer would not pursue them after they stole his horse. Tom remarks that the factory is probably worth a lot of money, but Ren still seems unconvinced that Benjamin planned it. He says that Benjamin will not get any of the money because he took off, but Tom says that Benjamin...

(This entire section contains 1182 words.)

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did not do it for money—“He did it for you. His own little monster.”

Suddenly, the front door begins to shake as though someone is trying to open it. Tom pulls out his gun, Brom grabs the fire poker, Ichy picks up a piece of firewood, and Ren grabs a frying pan. They approach the entrance and, fully prepared to fight, unlock the door. The door opens, and Mrs. Sands stands before them. She is stunned that she was “LOCKED FROM MY OWN HOUSE,” but sees Ren and says that “THE DROWNED BOY [HAS] COME TO WELCOME ME.” He puts down the frying pan and when she opens her arms, runs over to hug her. She lifts him up and declares that he is no longer the drowned boy; he is “MY BOY.” She cradles Ren for a while before setting him back on the floor, explaining that she could not stand to be in the hospital any longer. She looks at the twins, who are dirty and look starving, and at Tom’s broken leg, and at Ren’s clothes that are stained with dirt and blood. She asks them what happened, and Ren only responds that they have “been lost.” Mrs. Sands says that Sister Agnes told her everything, about how no one had wanted Ren and about everything that Ren had done for her. He says that she “COULD THINK OF NO ONE ELSE WHO’D DO THE SAME” and that “NOW WE’VE FOUND EACH OTHER...WE’VE FOUND EACH OTHER FOR ALL TIMES.” She begins to cry, and Ren guides her into the kitchen and near the fireplace. There is nowhere for her to sit, however, and she suddenly notices the complete ruin of her house. She suddenly rushes around the kitchen, stumbling over the dented dishes, uneaten food, and broken furniture. She screams, grabs her broom, and begins to beat them all, demanding to know what they did to her house. Ren falls to his knees as she thrashes him with the bristles of the broom and vows “to stay and make everything right again.”


The novel offers a final argument about the question of self-sacrifice as an important aspect of loyalty by contrasting Mrs. Sands’s reception of Ren with Tom’s intended abandonment of the boys. It seems that Tom, in keeping with Benjamin, is willing to shirk his responsibilities as the twins’ “Papa,” either because of the revelation that their mother committed suicide or because it is no longer convenient to keep them. Nevertheless, he is prepared to abandon them out of self-interest, though he presents his intentions as an act of responsibility: he cannot possibly care for them because he cannot get his life together. Instead of committing himself to reforming in the name of caring for the boys, he opts for returning them as though they are appliances he has since reconsidered purchasing. Given that he forcefully marched the boys across a great distance to North Umbrage, often under threats of violence, it seems that Tom is purely selfish and uninterested in fulfilling his responsibilities. Mrs. Sands, however, contrasts with Tom in the way that Dolly contrasts with Benjamin. She recognizes what Ren went through for her sake and rewards his loyalty—which involved great self-sacrifice—by vowing to never be parted again. And though she is understandably outraged about the state of her house, it's certain that she will honor her promise.


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