Summary and Analysis PART III Chapter 8. The Shop-Behind-the-Shop, continued

Summary

Theo is accepted into a college preparatory school but purposefully neglects his studies. Instead, he spends his time learning the antiques trade from Hobie, which he hopes will make him a valued member of the household.

Worried about what to do with The Goldfinch, Theo moves the painting to a secured storage locker. He tries to visit the apartment doormen who had been so kind to him and his mother, but the building is boarded up. He walks away feeling sad and disconnected.

Analysis

Although Theo has, for the most part, accepted the constant fluctuations of his life, he assumes there are certain things that will never change. The apartment building in which he and his mother lived is one such thing. Now he discovers that even that is transitory. The boarded-up building reveals the sad truth that nothing is permanent or forever and reinforces that his earlier, innocent life is over. While Theo lacks control over such fluctuations, the two things that he does have control over are learning Hobie’s trade and preserving The Goldfinch. To Theo, Hobie’s ability to create permanence where there was once only decay is attractive to him.

The condition and location of The Goldfinch, wrapped in layers of material and protective tape, and placed in a dark, underground storage space, is a metaphor for burial. Its interment effectively suspends it in time. The materials that conceal it, never breached by Theo after he wraps it, protectively cover the painting but ironically keep the masterpiece from being the primary thing it’s meant to be: an object to be viewed. However, in Theo’s world where so much is transitory, The Goldfinch itself is the one thing that seems permanent no matter how the painting’s value changes to Theo. Initially a touchstone to his mother and subsequently an object with so much value that it had no value at all, the painting has now become something permanent, proving that life can be stable.

Pop Quiz!

Why do Theo and his mother go to the museum on the day of the bombing?

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