A Retrieved Reformation

by

O. Henry

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Jimmy’s Tools Symbol Analysis

Jimmy’s Tools Symbol Icon

Career safecracker and thief Jimmy Valentine’s suitcase of burglar’s tools is mentioned several times throughout “A Retrieved Reformation.” Made in part by Valentine himself, the high-quality tools represent Jimmy’s expertise and dedication to his trade. Jimmy owns “the finest set of burglar’s tools in the East,” and he takes great pride in his custom-made pieces. When five thousand dollars is stolen from a bank-safe in Jefferson City, detective Ben Price knows that Jimmy is the culprit; after all, Jimmy’s “got the only clamps that can do it.”

The tools take on deeper significance after Jimmy falls in love with Annabel Adams and vows to live a straight and decent life. Jimmy “quits the old business” and intends to gift his suitcase of tools to an old friend and fellow thief—so that they may be put to good use. Ironically, as Jimmy is delivering the suitcase, Annabel’s niece, Agatha, becomes accidentally locked in the safe at The Elmore Bank. At the blind behest of Annabel and her family, Jimmy quickly cracks the safe with the tools, freeing Agatha and saving her life. In that moment, Jimmy (living under the guise of Ralph D. Spencer, an honest shoe salesman) sacrifices his false identity and potentially his relationship with Annabel, even though he has used his tools for good instead of bad. In the end, Jimmy’s tools—the very things that make his success as a thief possible—become the means through which Jimmy saves Agatha and redeems himself.

Jimmy’s Tools Quotes in A Retrieved Reformation

The A Retrieved Reformation quotes below all refer to the symbol of Jimmy’s Tools. 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

Pulling out from the wall a folding-bed, Jimmy slid back a panel in the wall and dragged out a dust-covered suitcase. He opened this and gazed fondly at the finest set of burglar’s tools in the East. It was a complete set, made of specially tempered steel, the latest designs in drills, punches, braces and bits, jimmies, clamps, and augers, with two or three novelties invented by Jimmy himself, in which he took pride.

Related Characters: Jimmy Valentine/Ralph D. Spencer
Related Symbols: Jimmy’s Tools
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

From that time on [Jimmy] seemed to be unconscious of the presence of any one else. He laid out the shining, queer implements swiftly and orderly, whistling softly to himself as he always did when at work. In a deep silence and immovable, the others watched him as if under a spell.

Related Symbols: Jimmy’s Tools
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
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Jimmy’s Tools Symbol Timeline in A Retrieved Reformation

The timeline below shows where the symbol Jimmy’s Tools 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
...dusty suitcase. He opens the case and “gazes fondly” at his set of state-of-the-art burglar’s tools, some of which he actually invented himself. A half an hour later, Jimmy appears back... (full context)
Love and Redemption  Theme Icon
Change and Identity Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Jimmy, with his suitcase of burglar’s tools, hitches a ride on a horse-drawn wagon delivering mail and ends up in Elmore—a small... (full context)
Love and Redemption  Theme Icon
Work, Ethics, and Morality Theme Icon
Change and Identity Theme Icon
...Little Rock to “wind up some little matters” and gift him his suitcase of burglar’s tools. Jimmy knows his friend will appreciate the tools, and since he has “quit the old... (full context)
Love and Redemption  Theme Icon
Work, Ethics, and Morality Theme Icon
Change and Identity Theme Icon
...breakfast with Annabel and her family, Jimmy readies himself to deliver his suitcase of burglar’s tools to Little Rock. He also has to order his suit for the wedding and he... (full context)
Love and Redemption  Theme Icon
Change and Identity Theme Icon
...Adams, her sister, and her sister’s children, Agatha and May. Jimmy grabs his suitcase of tools from the room that he still rents at the hotel and they head to The... (full context)
Love and Redemption  Theme Icon
Work, Ethics, and Morality Theme Icon
Change and Identity Theme Icon
...took his place.” Jimmy orders everyone away from the safe and begins to remove the tools from his suitcase. (full context)
Love and Redemption  Theme Icon
Work, Ethics, and Morality Theme Icon
Change and Identity Theme Icon
...safe, he seems to be unaware of those around him. He methodically removes the strange tools from his bag and whistles as he works. Jimmy is silent and appears “immovable” while... (full context)