A Retrieved Reformation

by

O. Henry

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Themes and Colors
Love and Redemption  Theme Icon
Work, Ethics, and Morality Theme Icon
Change and Identity Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Retrieved Reformation, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Love and Redemption

Despite being released from prison at the start of “A Retrieved Reformation,” burglar Jimmy Valentine clearly hasn’t learned his lesson. An expert at cracking safes, Jimmy quickly returns to a life of crime and continues to rob banks throughout the area. Only after seeing Annabel Adams outside one such bank does Jimmy abandon his criminal ways, and, upon falling in love with her, ultimately renounce them forever. Through Jimmy’s development from delinquent to honest man…

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Work, Ethics, and Morality

As Jimmy is released from prison the warden tells him, “You’re not a bad fellow at heart. Stop cracking safes, and live straight.” According to the warden, to live straight—and thereby be a good person—Jimmy must work an honest job. At the same time, however, the fact that Jimmy’s so good at being a thief elicits a sort of begrudging respect. O. Henry presents the dedicated detective Ben Price meanwhile, as an embodiment of ethics…

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Change and Identity

O. Henry’s story chronicles the rehabilitation of Jimmy Valentine, who transforms from a career safecracker and thief into an honest and productive member of society. When Jimmy is first introduced, it is as an incarcerated criminal, and his identity undergoes several more transformations before he is ultimately redeemed by his love for Annabel Adams. Though Jimmy’s new life with Annabel as Ralph D. Spencer—shoe salesman and all-around good guy—bears very little resemblance to…

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Justice and the Law

O. Henry’s “A Retrieved Reformation” is a harsh critique of justice and the law in America during the early twentieth century. When Jimmy Valentine is arrested for an obscure robbery in Springfield, his prison stay is short and sweet thanks to his outside connections, and he is ultimately pardoned by the governor of Arkansas. Despite obviously breaking the law, Jimmy is never held fully accountable for his actions, and he is easily able to continue…

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