A Retrieved Reformation

by

O. Henry

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An “eminent” police detective and the antagonist of “A Retrieved Reformation.” Price is portrayed as the epitome of morality and hard work, and he serves as a foil to Jimmy Valentine’s criminal lifestyle. Jimmy and Ben Price have a long and established history; Jimmy was sent to prison after Price arrested him for an obscure crime in Springfield, and Jimmy again lands on Price’s radar not long after he is released. His dedication to detective work and his familiarity with Jimmy’s handiwork makes “other people with burglar-proof safes to feel more at ease,” and he vows to make Jimmy pay for his crimes. Price is so determined to bring Jimmy to justice that he pursues him for an entire year, finally finding him living in the town of Elmore under the guise of Ralph D. Spencer. However, Price’s traditional ethics and dedication to the law are put into question when he pretends not to know Jimmy after witnessing his redemption. Price watches quietly from the back of The Elmore Bank as Jimmy saves Agatha, the niece of his fiancé, Annabel Adams, when she inadvertently becomes locked in a safe. Jimmy’s hidden skillset means that he can easily free Agatha, but doing so is an admission that he isn’t who he pretends to be—an honest and law-abiding man—and Price appreciates this sacrifice. Jimmy saves Agatha even though it may very well end his relationship with Annabel, and Price considers this selfless act evidence of Jimmy’s reformation. When Jimmy surrenders to Price after his display of heroism, Price responds, “Guess you’re mistaken, Mr. Spencer. Don’t believe I recognize you.” Price lets Jimmy go, effectively breaking the law by letting him get away with his past crimes. O. Henry’s portrayal of Detective Ben Price complicates traditional notions of ethics, morality, and hard work.

Ben Price Quotes in A Retrieved Reformation

The A Retrieved Reformation quotes below are all either spoken by Ben Price or refer to Ben Price. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Redemption  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Modern Library edition of A Retrieved Reformation published in 1994.
A Retrieved Reformation Quotes

“Hello, Ben!” said Jimmy, still with his strange smile. “Got around at last, have you? Well, let’s go. I don’t know that it makes much difference, now.”

Related Characters: Jimmy Valentine/Ralph D. Spencer (speaker), Ben Price
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

“Guess you’re mistaken, Mr. Spencer,” he said. “Don’t believe I recognize you. Your buggy’s waiting for you, ain’t it?”

Related Characters: Ben Price (speaker), Jimmy Valentine/Ralph D. Spencer
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:
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A Retrieved Reformation PDF

Ben Price Character Timeline in A Retrieved Reformation

The timeline below shows where the character Ben Price appears in A Retrieved Reformation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Retrieved Reformation
Work, Ethics, and Morality Theme Icon
Once upstairs, Jimmy finds his room “just as he had left it,” and notices Ben Price ’s collar-button on the floor. Jimmy pulls the folding-bed down and removes a panel from... (full context)
Work, Ethics, and Morality Theme Icon
...five thousand dollars is stolen, an amount large enough to attract the attention of detective Ben Price . Price immediately suspects Jimmy—after all, he is the only burglar with the skills and... (full context)
Love and Redemption  Theme Icon
Work, Ethics, and Morality Theme Icon
Change and Identity Theme Icon
Meanwhile, detective Ben Price quietly arrives in Elmore, still in pursuit of Jimmy for the Jefferson City break-in. He... (full context)
Work, Ethics, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
As Mr. Adams engages Ralph, bragging about his new safe, Ben Price walks undetected into the bank. He stands around casually and tells the teller behind the... (full context)
Love and Redemption  Theme Icon
Work, Ethics, and Morality Theme Icon
Change and Identity Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Ben Price stands blocking the front door of the bank. Jimmy greets Price warmly with a smile,... (full context)