A Retrieved Reformation

A Retrieved Reformation Summary and Analysis of Paragraphs 38–64


The next morning, Jimmy is at Annabel’s family home. He is planning to take a trip out of Elmore for the first time since he arrived over a year ago. He wants to go to Little Rock to buy a wedding suit and a gift for Annabel. Jimmy hasn’t broken a safe during his year in Elmore.

Before his trip, Jimmy walks to the bank with Mr. Adams, Annabel, Annabel’s sister, and Annabel’s sister’s young daughters, May and Agatha. They pass the hotel where Jimmy lives, so he runs up to his room and grabs his case. In the bank, everyone is happy to see Jimmy there with Annabel; he is a nice-looking young man.

Jimmy puts down his case. Annabel puts Jimmy’s hat on her head and lifts the case, asking if she looks like a drummer. She then comments on the case’s weight, exclaiming that it feels full of gold bars. Jimmy claims it is full of nickel-plated shoe horns he intends to return, saying it saves him the cost of postage if he carries them himself. As a soon-to-be-married man, he is becoming frugal.

Mr. Adams shows off his bank’s new safe, which contains a small room and features a door controlled by a clock mechanism. The clock is set to open the safe at a specific time, and no one—not even Mr. Adams—can open it at any other time. Jimmy, acting as Mr. Spencer, takes this information in with mild interest but acts as though he doesn’t understand. May and Agatha enjoy looking at the shining door with its many parts.

Meanwhile, Ben Price enters the bank and looks around. Suddenly Annabel and her sister scream: May has accidentally locked Agatha inside the safe. Mr. Adams can’t open it, and says he hadn’t set the clock. Mr. Adams silences everyone's distressed cries and tries to speak to Agatha through the door to calm her. However, she can’t hear his specific words, and they can hear her going wild with fear. The women panic and ask if there isn’t something the men can do.

Mr. Adams says there isn’t anyone in town who can open it; someone would have to come from the city. In a shaking voice, Mr. Adams asks Jimmy what they should do. He fears that Agatha will die, either due to lack of oxygen or from terror. Annabel turns to Jimmy with eyes full of pain but also hope; she implores him to do something.

Jimmy smiles at her in a strange, soft way. He asks that she give him the rose she is wearing. Shocked and confused by the request, Annabel puts the flower in his hand. Jimmy puts it in his vest pocket, then removes his coat; with this action, the narrator comments that Ralph D. Spencer passes away and Jimmy Valentine takes his place.

Jimmy commands everyone to stand away from the door. He opens his tool bag and mentally blocks out everyone else’s presence. The others watch as if paralyzed. Within ten minutes—faster than ever before—he opens the safe. Agatha runs to her mother’s arms. Jimmy puts on his coat and walks to the door. He hears someone call the name "Ralph," but he doesn’t stop.

Jimmy sees Ben Price’s large figure blocking the doorway. He greets Ben by name, still smiling in his strange way. Jimmy says that Ben is here at last, as if he expected him to be there sooner. Jimmy says they can go, it doesn't matter anymore.

Ben, acting strangely, addresses Jimmy as Mr. Spencer. Ben says he doesn’t believe he knows what Jimmy is talking about, and that Mr. Spencer's carriage to the train station is waiting. The story ends with Ben turning from the bank’s door and walking slowly down the street.


Now fully enmeshed in Annabel’s family, Jimmy joins them for a visit to the bank. The motif of Jimmy’s nice-looking appearance arises again as people in the bank look upon him and Annabel with approval. Little do they know that he is carrying a bag full of safe-breaking tools, which Jimmy plans to give to his friend once he leaves town for the day.

Mr. Adams shows off his new, complicated safe, oblivious that he is explaining how it works to the region’s most notorious safe-cracker. The mood of the scene becomes anxious when Ben Price walks into the bank and Jimmy doesn’t appear to notice his presence. Ben has found Jimmy at the scene of what could very well be his next theft, and Jimmy even has his tools as evidence with him.

The anxiety spikes when May traps Agatha in the safe. Paradoxically, Jimmy’s love of Annabel and allegiance to her family means he must expose his true identity to them and reveal that he has been betraying her the entire time. Jimmy asks for Annabel’s flower as a token to remember their love, which he is about to give up as he performs the selfless act of opening the safe.

At the story’s climax, the theme of identity returns when the narrator comments that, as Jimmy removes his coat, the identity of Ralph D. Spencer dies and Jimmy Valentine is reborn in his place. Having re-inhabited his old identity, Jimmy blocks out the distractions of the people around him, ignoring their confusion as he skillfully opens the safe. He stays locked within himself even after he frees Agatha, barely registering Annabel calling his name as he walks toward the door with Annabel’s rose in his pocket.

To cap off the story’s climax, Ben is blocking the exist, and it seems certain that Jimmy is going to prison. Jimmy’s cunning and duplicitous nature reemerges when he casually greets Ben, thereby signaling to the reader that Jimmy knew Ben was on his case the entire time.

Finally accepting his guilt, Jimmy is ready to go without resistance. But in an ironic reversal, it is now the police officer who feigns ignorance; having witnessed Jimmy’s selfless gesture, Ben understands the Jimmy is a reformed man and so doesn't arrest Jimmy. Ultimately, it is only once Jimmy is honest about his identity as a safe-cracker that he is freed from that identity and allowed to live his new life as an honest man.