Summary and Analysis PART IV Chapter 10. The Idiot



Eight months later, Theo is engaged to Kitsey Barbour, Andy’s younger sister; he ignores his love for Pippa in order to make a commitment to Kitsey. He runs into Boris on the street. Boris, grown and wealthy, reveals to Theo that he secretly stole The Goldfinch in Las Vegas. After an incredibly intoxicated Theo showed him the painting, Boris wrapped up a textbook and switched it with The Goldfinch. Boris has been using the painting as collateral to build his empire—the painting is not in his possession anymore—but vows to return it to Theo.

Theo meets many shady associates of Boris, including Horst, whose apartment is full of fake and stolen art. Boris explains that Horst’s friend Sascha probably has the painting. Boris promises to contact his associates in Antwerp, Belgium, for further information.

Theo sees Kitsey and Tom Cable kissing and realizes that she is in love with Tom, just as he is in love with Pippa. Theo and Kitsey talk and agree that they have a solid-but-unloving relationship that they should continue.

At his engagement party, Theo meets Lucius Reeve’s business partner, who threatens to expose Theo’s antiques restoration scam. Boris tells Theo they must leave immediately to track down the painting overseas.


Theo’s love for Pippa, of which she seems blissfully unaware, makes him miserable and distracted. In contrast to his true love for Pippa is his unemotional “love” for Kitsey. Kitsey is the more sensible, rational choice for him and his future. Through sheer force of will, Theo tries to make his relationship with Kitsey work. When he finds out that Kitsey is in the same position he is, loving someone she can never be with, they convince one another that the prudent choice is to remain together.

The false perception of love between Theo and Kitsey parallels the deception of the paintings in Horst’s apartment—forgeries, not authentic originals—and Hobie’s restored antiques that Theo sells as originals. The value of a painting or an antique, be it a fake or an original, ultimately is decided by the buyer, not the seller. This perceived value speaks to Theo’s emotional relationship with The Goldfinch, which he has thought to be in his possession for years but in truth has been a textbook wrapped in layers of material and tape. Nonetheless, his belief that he’s had the priceless masterpiece is what is most important, not the painting itself, because he has created a connection between the painting and his dead mother. Perception is more important than reality.

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