Ren is the protagonist of The Good Thief. Shortly after birth, he was abandoned at St. Anthony’s orphanage without his left hand. Since then, he has had no idea about his background or identity aside from the letters R, E, and N, which were stitched into his collar. Ren dreams of living with a family, especially with a mother to take care of him. Because of this lack of identity, Ren is quite a moldable twelve-year-old child when Benjamin Nab adopts him.
Unfortunately, Ren is exposed to a great deal of bad behavior. Benjamin and his partner, Tom, are thieves. They are willing to take care of Ren because they feel that Ren’s missing hand will better enable them to con people out of their money. Although Benjamin and Tom promote a lifestyle free from personal attachments and obligations, guilt and regrets, or upright contributions to society, Ren seems to effortlessly form emotional attachments and friendships throughout the text. When he meets Mrs. Sands, she immediately begins to care for Ren and he returns her loyalty, particularly when she falls ill with fever. Ironically, it is Ren’s ability to bring out the tenderness in others that helps Benjamin con people.
Ren has the ability to find the good in people that society perhaps otherwise deems as useless. At St. Anthony’s, Ren’s best friends are the twins Brom and Ichy, who are considered bad luck and are unlikely to be adopted. Outside the orphanage, Ren finds a surrogate mother in Mrs. Sands, a woman who can only speak in a yell. He takes care of Mrs. Sands’s brother, a dwarf who lives on the roof of her boarding house. Ren befriends a murderous giant who agrees to stop killing people to please Ren. Finally, Ren befriends a girl known as “Harelip” who later reveals that her name is Jenny. Ren’s compassion helps these people find their own sense of worth and often allows them to lead happier lives.
Although he is surrounded by terrible behavior and morally bankrupt actions, Ren remains a “good thief.” He is rewarded for this by the...
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