Summary and Analysis
PART IV Chapter 9. Everything of Possibility
The novel jumps eight years forward. Now an adult, Theo still lives with Hobie and has become a partner in the antiques business. His role is that of salesman, a talent that Hobie does not possess. Theo has learned a great deal about antiques, but he has also created a clever scam, unknown to Hobie, that makes a great deal of money: While Theo does sell genuine antiques, he also sells Hobie’s restorations, passing them off as authentic works. Between Hobie’s flawless restoration work and Theo’s salesmanship, even experts are fooled. Theo has sold one such restored piece to a man named Lucius Reeve, who has caught on to Theo’s deception and now hounds him.
Theo is reunited with the Barbours but under unusual and surprising circumstances: He runs into Andy’s older brother, Platt, who informs him that Mr. Barbour and Andy drowned in a sailing accident. Theo visits Mrs. Barbour, who is understandably depressed, and makes an effort to stay in contact with her and the remaining family.
Theo has become a drug addict, buying thousands of dollars of pills a month. At one point, he visits his mother’s favorite bench in Central Park, where he scattered her ashes. The bench is embellished with the words “Everything of Possibility.”
Theo meets with Lucius Reeve and is surprised to find that Lucius’ real intent for contacting him is to discuss The Goldfinch. After putting together clues from a news article that linked the painting to an international crime ring, Lucius believes Theo possesses the masterwork. Theo discounts the news article, knowing the painting is in his storage locker. Despite Theo’s confidence that Lucius knows nothing about the painting, Theo becomes nervous about his scam and confesses to Hobie. Hobie becomes so distraught that Theo finds he cannot reveal the true extent of his scam.
As an adult, Theo now has the autonomy that he craved as a child and is no longer at the mercy of adults’ whims. However, in many ways he still functions with the impulses and desires of a child. His interaction with Platt reveals that Platt is in a similar state of arrested development: Platt still calls his parents “Mommy” and “Daddy.” Theo realizes that neglect, abuse, and vulnerability plague even the most privileged people. Although Theo’s past has been unusual, his emotional experiences are not unique.
Theo yet again reevaluates and revalues “art.” His profitable scam to sell restored antiques as originals hinges not on what he thinks the fake antiques are worth but what buyers think they are worth. Theo chooses his victims by how arrogant and conceited they are, humbling them without their knowledge and revealing the folly of assigning monetary value to objects. He concludes that value is arbitrary and depends only on the perceived monetary value assigned to it. Hobie disagrees because he bases value not on financial worth but on personal honor and reputation.
The chapter’s title, “Everything of Possibility,” refers to the bench that Theo’s mother loved and where Theo scattered her ashes. But the phrase also reflects where Theo is in his life: at a crossroads. He is an adult now, trying to kick a drug habit, reconnecting with his once-almost family (the Barbours), and finding a livelihood that suits him. Theo’s life is ripe with possibilities, but nothing is resolved or finalized yet. He is at a place of multiple opportunities—with the possible danger and responsibility that comes with those opportunities.