Summary and Analysis
PART III Chapter 7. The Shop-Behind-the-Shop
Theo settles back into life in New York City. Very sick and exhausted, he recovers under Hobie’s care. Pippa, who is visiting from boarding school, spends a brief amount of time with Theo, which rekindles his love for and fascination with her.
Theo is much less concerned with his living situation than the adults in his life. He visits Mr. Bracegirdle and learns that he could have withdrawn the large amount of money his father needed, but the lawyer suspected foul play and denied Theo access in order to protect him. Hobie agrees to be Theo’s temporary guardian.
Theo studies for admission to a college preparatory school, uses money from his now available trust fund to contribute to the household, and observes Hobie and how he does business. Much to Theo’s concern, Hobie is content to restore antiques in his workshop and ignore the retail end of his business.
Theo remains anxious about The Goldfinch; he considers hypothetical scenarios to return it to the museum without being caught. He is horrified to read that others have been arrested after stolen art was found in their possession.
Theo’s outlook on life changes during this brief chapter. He regards himself in a mirror and sees something akin to a rescued child. Although Hobie assumes Theo’s guardianship without any strings attached, Theo still wrestles with feeling unstable and worrying that he is like his father. He is suffering from neglect, the impact of his father’s greed, and deep loneliness and isolation.
His lack of identity and his constant need to reinvent himself to acclimate to new circumstances take their toll on him. He stays in Welty’s room and wears some of Welty’s clothes, becoming a ghost of the man he watched die at the museum. Even Theo’s podcast playlist is his mother’s, not his own. This amalgamation of various parts of the dead robs him of anything definitively and uniquely “him.” He is whole but incredibly fragile.
The brief text message conversations that Theo has with Boris and Pippa highlight what Theo has come to expect from the world: isolation. No longer safe with his mother and never having been safe with his father, Theo now finds that communication with his few friends comes in fragmented language, only enough to get the point across but no more. These short text messages consist of strings of letters and numbers that physically manifest the loneliness and isolation he feels.