Summary and Analysis
PART II Chapter 6. Wind, Sand and Stars
Theo acclimates to his ongoing situation the best that he can. His relationship with his father improves. However, Theo and Boris’ relationship becomes strained when Boris starts dating a girl from school. Enamored with the girl, Boris begins neglecting Theo.
Theo’s father starts having money problems to the point that a man repeatedly shows up at the house asking for him. Theo’s father physically forces Theo to call his mother’s attorney, Mr. Bracegirdle, and ask for money from Theo’s trust fund. Previously unaware that his mother had set up a trust fund in his name, Theo realizes that his father’s motive for reentering his life was solely for the purpose of gaining access to his money. Soon after, Theo’s father is killed in a car accident.
Again facing the prospect of being placed in foster care, Theo steals money and pills from Xandra, as well as her dog, boards a bus, and returns to New York City. He takes The Goldfinch, stuffed in pillowcases and heavily duct-taped, with him.
In New York City, Theo wanders the streets temporarily. At one point, he runs into Mr. Barbour, who is agitated and mentally confused. Eventually Theo ends up at Hobie’s. Hobie makes Theo call Xandra to let her know that he’s safely back in New York City.
Theo’s identity constantly fluctuates during this time period. He tries to assimilate to his circumstances in Las Vegas, as he did with the Barbours, but there’s less that is familiar or welcoming in his father’s house. He also finds that he has increasingly more in common with Boris and abandons many of his previously held ambitions. Before moving to Las Vegas, Theo was placed in advanced classes but was bullied by the older kids in his grade. In Las Vegas, he indulges in drinking and drugs, and ignores his own and his mother’s previous expectations, including attending school. He begins to think that life’s rules and standards are arbitrary.
The Goldfinch continues to bring Theo comfort, solace, and peace. At times when he considers the painting, Theo doesn’t even think about its original significance to him: the memory of the day his mother was killed. Instead he sees a bird tied down, one that can only make pathetic, brief attempts at flight, forever condemned to land in the same place. The chained bird becomes a metaphor for Theo’s own circumstances. He cannot break free of his chaotic environment. He cannot escape his fate as a self-perceived orphan, nor can he disavow his father’s shortcomings, which he realizes are also his own. Ironically, after he mummifies the painting in pillowcases and duct tape, he doesn’t ever look at it: Protecting it becomes a higher priority than enjoying it. In his environment of neglected responsibility and abandonment, carrying and caring for the painting creates a sense of security and purpose within the chaos.
Theo, unaware that he had a substantial trust fund, never suspected that his father had an ulterior motive for taking him to Las Vegas. The trust fund reminds Theo—and readers—of his mother’s protective love for him. Her love contrasts sharply with Theo’s father’s selfishness and disregard for anything other than Theo’s money. That Theo’s mother continues to protect him even after her death comforts him: He has value—personal value—to someone whom he loves very much.
Theo internalizes both the harsh words from Xandra, who tells him that he is very much like his father, and the angry, confused words of Mr. Barbour, who seems to confirm Theo’s worst fears about himself: He is a burden. Theo’s self-loathing, combined with alcohol withdrawal and easy access to hard drugs, creates the perfect recipe for Theo to quietly self-destruct.