The Good Thief: A Novel

by Hannah Tinti

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Ren's hero's journey in The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti


Ren's hero's journey in The Good Thief involves his transformation from an orphan with a mysterious past to a young man who discovers his identity and sense of belonging. Throughout the novel, Ren faces numerous challenges, forms meaningful relationships, and ultimately uncovers the truth about his family, leading to his personal growth and self-discovery.

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How does the hero's journey manifest in The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti?

In the hero's journey, popularized by Joseph Campbell, an individual, almost always male, leaves his ordinary life and crosses a threshold into a new world that challenges him and his ideas about himself and the world. This main character overcomes an ultimate challenge, and at that point is rewarded and can, reborn, return home to a new life, having been transformed by his experiences.

Ren's ordinary life until he is 12 is in St. Anthony's orphanage in New England. Ren crosses the threshold into a new life and hero's journey when he is adopted by Benjamin. Here, outside of his safe if stifling monastery, he becomes a grave robber like Benjamin. He is on the hero's journey in this risky new world as learns about loyalty and betrayal. He learns about indifference and self-interest through people like Tom, but on the other hand, gets the mothering nurture he has always craved through the loud but loyal Mrs. Sands.

Ren's ultimate challenge comes when he is kidnapped by McGinty, who holds him on a table and threaten to cut off his right hand if he doesn't reveal who is father is. Ren can't bear the thought of being without both hands, so uses his wits and what he has learned from Benjamin to convince McGinty that Benjamin is his, Ren's, father, thinking that Benjamin has escaped McGinty's clutches. Ren finds out this isn't so, and when McGinty brings in the badly beaten and bloodied Benjamin, both Ren and Ben have to uses their wits (and some help from Jenny's explosion) to escape McGinty's clutches.

Ren receives the hero's reward when he finds out that Benjamin tricked McGinty into leaving him his fortune. Rather than going back to the orphanage, which was Tom's plan for him, Ren, transformed by his experiences, experiences rebirth in a new home. This home replicates the family he always longed for in the orphanage, with Mrs. Sands as his mother figure.

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What is Ren's hero's journey in The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti?

In Hannah Tinti’s The Good Thief, Ren’s adventures do indeed follow the pattern of the hero’s journey, even though the subject matter of the novel is not usual for a hero story. Let’s explore this more closely.

The first step in a hero’s journey is the call to adventure, and Ren experiences this when he is removed from his ordinary world of St. Anthony’s by Benjamin Nab. Nab and his partner, Tom, are conmen, so they are certainly not the usual hero’s mentors, and of course Ren resists them for a while. However, he is soon drawn into their world, which somewhat represents the crossing of the threshold typical of the hero’s journey.

Within the world of Benjamin and Tom, Ren faces all kinds of adventures, tests, and even enemies as he digs up bodies from graves, encounters the giant murderer Dolly, and is pursued by the “hatmen.”

Ren then approaches his greatest trial yet in the form of his uncle Silas McGinty, who owns a mousetrap factory and wants to take revenge on Ren because Silas’s sister, Ren’s mother, died in childbirth. The mousetrap factory is a horrible place that serves, in a way, as the innermost cave of the hero’s journey. Here Ren faces the ordeal, but he comes out alive even as Benjamin, who turns out to be Ren’s father, dies.

Ren does not return to the “ordinary world” he came from, but he does find a place in a family with Mrs. Sands and the others, supported by Ren’s inheritance from Silas, who dies when the mousetrap factory explodes. Benjamin has tricked Silas into signing a document making Ren his heir, and the money, along with his new family, serves as the “elixir” that makes the hero, Ren, happy in the end.

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