The Good Thief: A Novel

by Hannah Tinti

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Epilogue Summary and Analysis

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Summary

Dolly’s funeral is held in the oldest corner of the cemetery, “where markers were made of slate and trees had taken root.” Some trees have even taken over the graves near them. Ren looks at an old elm tree growing in the center of a plot, nearly consuming its grave. He touches Mrs. Sands’s elbow. She is telling him about her family’s cemetery plot and showing him where she and her brother will be buried, as well as where Ren will be buried. Ren remembers the agreement he made with Doctor Milton. After Mrs. Sands learned about it, she paid off what was owed for her care with the money she had buried in the yard and burned the letter in the fireplace. Doctor Milton seemed disappointed that he and Ren no longer have an agreement, but Sister Agnes looked pleased when she escorted Mrs. Sands and Ren out of the hospital.

The minister begins the funeral service with the Lord’s Prayer. Ren, Brom, and Ichy stop praying after the line “Deliver us from evil” because they are Catholic, but everyone else finishes the prayer. Tom takes off his hat. He had been examining McGinty’s business records for the last few days and discussing with the foreman the possibility of reopening the mousetrap factory. He also took inventory of everything that the hat boys stole after McGinty died. Mrs. Sands is pleased with Tom for helping Ren and has forgiven him for destroying her house. She has also allowed Brom and Ichy to have their own room, because Tom promised not to take the twins back to Saint Anthony’s. Tom seems to find it easier to keep his promises after he makes them, and Ren believes that it is possible to “see in him the kind of man he must have once been” when he stays sober and working.

The group of mousetrap girls stands behind Tom and the twins—“a whole crowd of ugly girls in their church dresses.” On the other side of the church, the widows are opening their stores for the day. The minister finishes the funeral blessing and motions for Ren to approach Dolly’s grave. Ren looks down the hole in the ground and sprinkles some dirt on top of Dolly’s coffin. He imagines that Dolly might be kept company by some of the men who had died in the mine, since it is possible that some of them are lying only several feet below where Dolly is buried. Ren hopes that Dolly will be a comfort to the dead miners, or “at the very least he hoped they would not be afraid of him."

The funeral ends, and the mousetrap girls lay down blankets for lunch. Mrs. Sands unpacks the food she's prepared while Tom pours cider for everyone. Ichy hands out napkins, and Brom distributes cream to go with the apple pie that Mrs. Sands made. It is the first truly warm summer day, and the girls lean against the cool headstones. Tom begins reciting poetry, “a talent that surprised everyone but interested only a few.” Mrs. Sands loads up a plate of leftover food to bring to the dwarf, and Ren imagines that he is surveying the proceedings from the rooftop at that moment.

The night that Mrs. Sands came home, the dwarf climbed down the chimney and was so moved to see his sister that he covered his face and would not let her approach until he collected himself. Then, he bemoaned the neglect he experienced in her absence—being starved and “driven half mad” by the mousetrap girls and...

(This entire section contains 1475 words.)

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the murderers “crawling” all over his roof. Mrs. Sands accused him of being a “glutton” and a “sneak,” saying that she was likely to find a great collection of her missing preserves beneath his bed. The dwarf looked at Ren, assuming that Ren had told Mrs. Sands about the preserves. However, Mrs. Sands began laughing and then coughing, which made both the dwarf and Ren very worried. The dwarf had to make his own dinner for a while, but soon Mrs. Sands recovered enough to cook for everyone again. In the ensuing months, they brought her kitchen back to a functional state, and her pantry slowly filled up again. When she made cake, she gave Ren and the dwarf the largest slices.

After the picnic, the mousetrap girl with the gap in her teeth begins chasing Brom among the graves, and soon a game of tag is started. Everyone chases Brom, who is so fast that no one can catch him. The girl with the harelip, Jenny, removes her shawl and spreads it out over one of the headstones, which is so old that the name that was once inscribed upon it had worn away. Ren thinks that, though no one knows who the person is anymore, the headstone “looked warmed, and grateful for being chosen.” Ren realizes that Jenny is looking around for Benjamin, with her face “animated and full of hope.” Ren wonders if Benjamin is really hiding somewhere nearby and then realizes that he will always be looking for him no matter where he is. He looks past the common and at the river. He can feel “the pull of the current,” the “promise of deep water.” He decides to join the mousetrap girls and Ichy in their pursuit of Brom, who is still faster than everyone else. Ren runs toward them with fingers reaching out, “closing in, then missing, missing, missing, missing.”

Analysis

The epilogue attempts to tie together all of the major themes in the novel, providing conclusive arguments for some while refraining from providing resolution for others. With the death of McGinty and the potential reopening of the mousetrap factory under different ownership, the commodification of bodies seen throughout the novel might be less dehumanizing. However, Doctor Milton is presumably still accepting deliveries of corpses and still performing amputations at the hospital. The mousetrap girls are still regarded as less than human, as shown by the fact that they are still regarded as a mass of ugly, unmarried girls. The Harelip is still identified as the Harelip, despite the fact that we know her name is Jenny. Therefore, none of the moral and ethical problems posed by commodifying bodies and treating them as less than human are resolved.

The novel takes a strong position on the contrasting values of abstract idealism and pragmatic materialism, primarily through character foils. Benjamin and Dolly, for example, are the paternal figures in Ren’s life. Though both characters can be ruthlessly pragmatic, Dolly is far more loyal and ultimately subscribes to Ren’s idealistic views of friendship, love, and loyalty when he sacrifices his own life to save Ren's. Conversely, Benjamin’s only selfless—if it can be called selfless—act of loyalty towards Ren is that he used manipulation to arrange for Ren to inherit the mousetrap factory before abandoning him again. Similarly, Mrs. Sands and Tom are characters who attempt to create families in order to make up for tragic losses in their own lives. Though both characters adopt abandoned children, Mrs. Sands is a stable maternal figure who does not break her promises when they become inconvenient. Tom, on the other hand, nearly abandons both Ren and the twins because he simply cannot be bothered with the responsibility of caring for children. Furthermore, he only promises not to return them to Saint Anthony’s after Ren inherits the mousetrap factory. Mrs. Sands is the true, ideal parent, whereas Tom is the farcical, pragmatic parent. It seems, then, that idealism is tied to self-sacrifice and loyalty, while materialism—which is closely tied to survivalism—is tied to selfishness and betrayal.

Finally, the important theme of mothers and mothering finds its conclusion in both Mrs. Sands’s adoption of Ren and the revelation that Margaret truly loved Ren before she died. Throughout the novel, Ren grapples with both the mystery of his mother’s identity and the betrayal inherent in her abandonment of him. Though mothering cannot be inextricably tied to loyalty, given that Brom and Ichy’s mother committed suicide, Ren’s experience with mothers aligns with his expectations of the family ideal. Margaret sewed his name into a collar because she loved him, but her tragic circumstances prevented her from caring for him so she left him with Sister Agnes. Mrs. Sands assumes a maternal role the moment he enters her house, and she fulfills her promise to never be parted from him again even though he contributed to her house being destroyed. She even provides for Brom and Ichy, who have been rejected by society because of a superstition about twins being unlucky. Therefore, it seems that the maternal ideal is fulfilled for Ren, and that was always his greatest wish.

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