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A Retrieved Reformation Summary

Set in the American Midwest during the early 1900s, A Retrieved Reformation concerns
the surprising fate of Jimmy Valentine, a skilled young safecracker who returns to society
after he is paroled from prison. The story begins at the prison shortly before Jimmy
Valentine if set free; the majority of the narrative occurs in Elmore, a small backwoods
town in Arkansas where he settles. Major characters include Jimmy Valentine; Mike
Dolan, his partner in crime; detective Ben Price, Jimmys nemesis; and Annabel Adams,
the girl with whom Jimmy falls in love. Minor characters are the prison warden; Cronin, a
prison guard; Mr. Adams, Annabels father; Annabels sister; Annabels two young nieces,
.May and Agatha; a hotel clerk; and a young boy who lives in Elmore
As the story begins, Jimmy is called to the wardens office. The warden hands Jimmy his
pardon from the governor and advises him to stay out of trouble: Youre not a bad fellow
at heart, he says. Stop cracking safes, and live straight. Jimmy laughs, feigning
surprise, denying he had ever cracked a safe or committed the bank robbery that had
.sent him to prison
Jimmy leaves prison the next day and takes a train to another town where he meets up
with Mike Dolan, a friend and confederate. After picking up his key from Mike, Jimmy
returns to his room above Mikes restaurant where he had lived before detective Ben
Price arrested him. Jimmy finds his safe cracking tools still hidden in the wall where he
had left them. A week later, a string of bank safe burglaries in the Midwest comes to Ben
Prices attention; he knows Jimmy Valentine is back in business and sets out to catch him
.again
Meanwhile, carrying his burglar tools in a suitcase, Jimmy arrives in small, remote
Elmore, Arkansas, where he plans to rob the bank. Walking toward the hotel, he
encounters a beautiful young woman. Their eyes meet, and in that instant, Jimmy
undergoes a complete reformation: Jimmy Valentine looked into her eyes, forgot what he
was, and became another man. After talking to a boy on the street, Jimmy learns she is
Annabel Adams, whose father owns the bank. Jimmy continues on to the hotel, where he
registers as Ralph D. Spencer. In a conversation with the hotel clerk, Jimmy learns that
Elmore does not have a shoe store and that business is good in the town. Jimmy
Valentine does not rob the bank; instead, Ralph Spencer settles in Elmore, opens a
profitable shoe store, becomes a social success, and makes the acquaintance of
.Annabel Adams
A year elapses. Still using his Ralph Spencer alias, Jimmy enjoys great success. His
business is growing, he and Annabel are soon to be married, and Annabels father and

sister have accepted him as one of the family. To cut completely the ties with his past,
Jimmy writes a letter to one of his former friends, asking the man to meet him in Little
Rock. Jimmy plans to give the man his set of safe cracking tools. The day before Jimmy
is to leave for Little Rock, Ben Price arrives in Elmore, spots Jimmy Valentine, and learns
.he is about to marry the bankers daughter. Ben Price has other ideas
The next day before leaving town, with his burglar tools in his suitcase, Jimmy goes to
the bank with Annabel, Annabels sister, and the sisters two little girls, May and Agatha.
Annabels father wants to show off the new burglar-proof safe he has recently installed.
While all are admiring the safe, Ben Price comes into the bank and watches the scene;
he tells a bank teller he was just waiting for a man he knew. Jimmy is unaware of the
.detectives presence
Without warning, May playfully locks Agatha in the bank vault, throwing the bolts and
spinning the combination lock as she had seen her grandfather perform the maneuver.
The safe cannot be opened, Mr. Adams exclaims in horror, since the timer and the
combination had not been set. Furthermore, Agatha will soon run out of air in the vault.
Jimmy and the others can hear Agatha crying out in panic. Annabel turns to Jimmy,
.begging him to do something, at least to try
Jimmy looks at Annabel with a soft smile. He asks her for the rose she is wearing.
Confused, Annabel hands him the rose. Jimmy puts the rose in his vest pocket, throws
off his coat, and pushes up his shirtsleeves: With that act Ralph D. Spencer passed
away and Jimmy Valentine took his place. Using his tools, Jimmy opens the safe in
.record time, freeing the sobbing child
Once Agatha is safe, Jimmy puts on his coat and walks away; he hears Annabel call out
to him, but he does not stop. When he encounters Ben Price, who has witnessed the
dramatic scene, Jimmy tells the detective, Well, lets go. I dont know that it makes much
difference, now. Price, who seems to be acting rather oddly, replies, Guess youre
.mistaken, Mr. Spencer . . . Dont believe I recognize you. With that, the detective leaves
A Retrieved Reformation was published in 1909 in O. Henrys book of short
stories, Roads of Destiny. It features several of the narrative elements for which O.
Henrys short stories are well known. The surprise ending is especially characteristic of
O. Henrys tales, as are the storys numerous gentle ironies. Jimmy Valentine leaves
prison with no thought of leading a conventional, respectable life, and he comes to
Elmore to rob the bank. Instead, he falls in love with the bankers daughter, finds a new
family, runs a flourishing shoe store (having learned to make shoes in prison), and
becomes a pillar in his new community. Furthermore, the special skills he had used in his

criminal pursuits enable him to save a little girls life. His unlikely reformation is retrieved
.by the detective most determined to arrest him
The tone of the story, with its gentle humor and sentimentality, is representative of much
of O. Henrys work. Although Jimmy Valentine has no intention of abandoning his life of
crime, love magically transforms him in an instant. Also, many of O. Henrys stories
develop themes which, in their simplicity, can be summed up as the moral of the story.
In the case of Jimmy Valentine, goodness is rewarded. Cracking Mr. Adams safe does
not send him back to prison; it prevents his being arrestedthe final irony and one that
.satisfies because, as the warden observes, Jimmy is not a bad fellow at heart

Why is "A Retrieved Reformation" by O. Henry considered a


mystery?
The main event that might classify this short story as a mystery is the lack of specific
details and closure at the very end of it. After Jimmy saves little Agnes from the safe--in
...the process

In what ways are Jimmy Valentine and Ralph Spence from


"A Retrieved Reformation" alike? In what ways are they
different?
In the short story by O. Henry "A Retrieved Reformation," Jimmy Valentine and Ralph
.Spencer are one in the same
.Jimmy went to the Planters' Hotel, registered as Ralph D. Spencer, and engaged a room

Jimmy Valentine is the side of the main character when he first gets out of jail. He is a
safe cracker and has a penchant for robbing from banks. The warden liked him and so
.do most people he meets. He is a charming person. He is well groomed
Ralph Spence is also charming and a nicely groomed man. He is able to talk with people
and verbally manipulate them. However, he falls in love with a banker's daughter and
begins to become transformed. He ends up opening a legit business and his shoe store
.prospers
The problem that arises is that Jimmy has been found out by someone who blackmails
him so he will rob his beloved's father's bank. Jimmy and Ralph have the skills to crack
.open the safe

Jimmy Valentine used to wear a rose. After a child gets caught in the safe he gets his
wife's rose and puts it on and says good-bye to Ralph Spencer. He has to become
Jimmy in order to crack open the safe and expose himself. However, the past closes for
.him and he gets to stay as Ralph who is a legitimate shore store owner

I need a detailed critical appreciation of "A Retrieved


Reformation" by O.Henry?
The short story "A Retrieved Reformation" fulfills all that defines O. Henry's stories. For
...one thing, it has the signature surprise endingof this author: Just as the

What does Mike mean by his question, and what is Jimmy's


?response
In the story Jimmy had just been released from prison hand had returned to his room
where he wanted to get his stuff. He is conversing with Mike and he gets his key to take
his stuff out of his room. He has some tools of the trade in his room; his trade has been
.safe cracking
,Mike asks Jimmy
.Got anything on?" asked Mike Dolan, genially"
Mike asks Jimmy this because he is curious if Jimmy already has a safe cracking job
lined up. He had been familiar with Jimmy before he had gone to prison and wanted to
.know if Jimmy had work, of his own lined up now that he was out

What is ironic about the ending of "A Retrieved


Reformation" in O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation"?
O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation" is built upon a series of ironies that culminate in the
most moving of all. When Dandy Jim Valentine is released from prison because his friend
...Mike Dolan
This story also has the irony that is fairly typical in some of O. Henry's other stories. As in
"The Gift of the Magi," the hero, Valentine, ends up giving up the one thing that makes
...him

Summary of A Retrieved Reformation - O. Henry

Jimmy Valentine had been awarded four years in prison for the Spring field robbery, But he
was released when he completed ten months in prison. Jimmy had influential friends
outside to secure his release every time he was imprisoned. Having been released from
jail, he went straight to Mike Donald's hotel from where he had been arrested. His suitcase
containing the burglar's tools was there in the room. He took out the suitcase from behind
the panel in the wall.
A week after the release of Jimmy, there were three burglaries one after the other and Ben
Price the detective, said that Jim Valentine had resumed business.
Jim Valentine reached Elmore, a little town in Arkansas. When he was walking down the
sidewalk towards the hotel, he noticed a young lady enter the Elmore Bank. He looked into
her eyes and became another man. The lady blushed a little. It was the beginning of a love
affair. He learned that she was Annabel Adams, the daughter of the bank manager Jimmy
went to the Planter's Hotel, registered as Ralph D. Spencer, and engaged a room. Jimmy
decided to start a business in town. He did not want to leave the town because love had
started working wonders in Jimrny.
Jimmy Valentine's shoe business prospered. At the end of a year he and Annabel were
engaged to be married.
Jimmy wrote a letter to his old friend in St. Louis. He wanted I to come to Sullivan's place
in Little Rock the following Wednesday night at nine 0' clock. As he had given up the old
business of burglary he would give his friend the kit of tools. He wanted to lead an honest
life. After the marriage he would go west.
Ben Price came to know about the where about of Jimmy. He reached Elmore and watched
Ralph Spencer. Jimmy was getting ready to go to Little Rock. It was at this time Thai
Adams wanted to show Jimmy the new safe and vault in the Elmore Bank.
Suddenly there was a scream from the women. Unseen by the elders, May, the nine-yearold girl, in a spirit of play, had shut Agatha in the vault. Nobody could open the door that
had a time lock. Finally Annebel requested Ralph to do something to save the child. Ralph
got the rose that she was wearing and he put it into his vest pocket. In a minute Ralph D.
Spencer was transformed into Jimmy Valentin. He opened the suitcase. Taking out the nice
set of Burglar's tools he started his old work. Breaking his own burglarious record, he
threw back the bolts and opened the door. Agatha was saved.
Jimmy Valentine put on his coat and walked outside toward the front door. There he met
Ben Price. Jimmy was ready to surrender. But Ben acted in a different way. Ben told him
that he didn't recognize him. He could go to the waiting buggy.

Retrieved Reformation Summary


In Retrieved Reformation Jimmy Valentine was arrested for
cracking a safe in Springfield and he had served about ten

months of a four year sentence. He had the finest burglar's


tools in the East in a suit case at his house It was a complete
set. It was made of specially tempered steel. It had the latest
designs in drills, punches, braces and bits, jimmies, clamps,
and augers. It was invented by Jimmy himself and he took
pride in it. It had cost him over nine hundred dollars to make
them. And he put them to use. There was a small vault that
had a new patented door. It fastened with three solid steel
bolts thrown simultaneously with a single handle, and had a
time-lock. There was two children, May and Agatha, were
delighted by the shining metal and funny clock and knobs.
May had shut Agatha in the small vault. The combination had
not been set. The mother said "My precious darling!" as she
had cried. The girl would die in their. She said break it open.
But there wasn't anyone that could open the vault that was
close by. But Jimmy was there. He had put his suitcase on the
table and opened it. He had the vault opened in ten minutes
breaking his own record. He took the bolts out and opened
the door. After that he had put his coat on and walked out
.towards the door
This story wasn't interesting to me until it was getting to the
end of the story. I would give this story a three out of five
stars. If it had a bit more stuff in the begging of the story I
would have given it a four out of five. I liked the part where he
was opening the vault because it had that worried yet exciting
feeling because you didn't know if he was going to open the
.vault in time or if he able to open it
Another
A Retrieved Reformation", which tells the tale of safecracker Jimmy "
Valentine, recently freed from prison. He goes to a town bank to case it before
he robs it. As he walks to the door, he catches the eye of the banker's
beautiful daughter. They immediately fall in love and Valentine decides to give
up his criminal career. He moves into the town, taking up the identity of Ralph
Spencer, a shoemaker. Just as he is about to leave to deliver his specialized
tools to an old associate, a lawman who recognizes him arrives at the bank.
Jimmy and his fiance and her family are at the bank, inspecting a new safe,
when a child accidentally gets locked inside the airtight vault. Knowing it will
seal his fate, Valentine opens the safe to rescue the child. Sheepishly, he
gives himself up, but much to his surprise, Price pretends not to recognize
.him and walks away

A Retrieved Reformation
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Using a Wikispace as a discussion forum gives you the opportunity to


discuss this book with your peers. Posting and responding to entries
requires expressing your thoughts in writing. You will be able to tell how
well you have expressed your thoughts by reading responses to your
entries. Be sure to edit your postings for grammar, language usage, and
spelling. Your teachers will be counting your entries and monitoring your
.discussions

Directions:
Each student must post at least one time and respond to someone
another student's post at least one time. You may respond to a
student from any block.
To post a response:
1. Click on the page you would like to visit from the HOME page

2. Read the questions/ activities and decide which number you will be
posting a response to.
3. Click on the DISCUSSION tab.
4. Add the question number and your name in the SUBJECT space.
Type your response, comments etc. in theMESSAGE box.
5. Check what you have written by reading it out loud. Correct any
mistakes.
6. Hit save and you are done!
7. Check back to see if anyone has responded to your entry!

Discussion: We will be discussing the relationship between the


characters in the story. We will be analyzing the actions of the
characters that serve to advance the plot. Remember that
authors choose settings, events, characters' actions and
other aspects of the book on purpose. They are designed to
contribute to the development of the characters or the plot in
some way.
The five characteristics and Theme of a novel are :
1. Setting - the time and place in which the story takes place
2. Characterization - A character's trait's feelings and attitudes
3. Plot - The main events, and the causes and effects of those events.
4. Conflict/Resolution - The major conflict the main character faces and the decision that is
made to resolve the character's conflict.
5. Character Motivation- The reasons characters act the way they do.
Theme - Lessons or Universal Truths gained about the world and human experience
presented through the context of the story

READY?

START HERE! CHOOSE A QUESTION YOU

WOULD LIKE TO RESPOND TO:

Question Set One

Characterization (A

character's trait's, feelings and attitudes)


Discussion Questions - Characterization and Character Motivation
1. In O. Henrys A Retrieved Reformation, decision-making plays an important role in
the storys development. As in life, these decisions affect events, conflicts, and other
characters. Three decisions in the story deserve close examination:

Jimmys decision to go straight and open a shoe store in Elmore.

Jimmys decision to reveal himself in order to free Agatha from the safe.

Detective Ben Prices decision to pretend not to know Jimmys true identity.
Choose one of these decisions and explain how they serve to advance the plot.

2. Identify an event or situation in the story. Describe how one or more of the characters
behaves. What is the character's intent in behaving the way he or she does?
3. Identify a choice or decision a character makes. Explain if the author provides evidence
that contributes to your knowing why the character makes that choice?
4.Do you believe that a person who has demonstrated criminal behavior in the past can
change permanently? If yes, what influences could be responsible for that change? If not,
explain why.
5. Read this passage from the story.

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 complete set, made of specially
tempered steel, the latest in 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.
Choose a word to explain how Jimmy feels about being a bank robber. What phrases
or words led you to this conclusion? Do you think O'Henry's way of communicating
Jimmy's character to the reader is better than just writing "Jimmy was proud of his tools and
his job" or "Jimmy did not care about his tools and was ashamed of being a bank robber?"
Explain.

Question Set Two - Plot - .(Plot - The main events, and


the causes and effects of those events.)
Discussion Questions - Plot
1. Identify an event in the novel that caused you to strongly react. Why?
2. Are there any events in the story that you find confusing? Do you think the author

purposely confuses the reader and if so for what purpose? If not,then what could the author
have done differently to clear up the confusion?
3. Read this passage from the story.

A week after the release of Jimmy Valentine, 9762, there was a neat job of safeburglary done in Richmond, Indiana, with no clue to the author. A scant eight
hundred dollars was all that was secured. Two weeks after that a
patented,improved, burglar-proof safe in Logansport was opened like a cheese
to the tune of fifteen hundred dollars, currency; Then an old fashioned bank
safe in Jefferson City became active and threw out of it's crater an eruption of
banknotes amounting to five thousand dollars. The losses were now high
enough to bring the matter up to Ben Price's class of work. By comparing
notes, a remarkable similarity in the methods of the burglaries was noticed.
Ben Price investigated the scenes of the robberies, and was heard to remark:
"That's dandy Jim Valentine's autograph. He's resumed business. Look at the
combination knob - jerked out as easy as pulling up a radish in wet weather.
He's got the only clamps that can do it. And look how clean those tumblers
were punched out! Jimmy never has to drill but one hole. Yes, I want Mr.
Valentine. He'll do his bit next time without any short-time or clemency
foolishness."
Which sentence from the excerpt let's you know Ben Price's intentions?

If you have already answered and responded to at


least two discussion questions you may lead a
discussion about irony or write a review of the story.
IRONY DISCUSSION:
O. Henry's short, simple stories are noted for their careful plotting, ironic coincidences, and
surprise endings. Does A Retrieved Reformation fit this description? What events are ironic?
Definition of Irony in literature 1. a technique of indicating as through character development.
An intention or attitude opposite to that which is stated. 2. An outcome of events contrary to
what was, or might have been expected.
If you have time you can write a review of the story.

WRITE A REVIEW OF THE STORY. Did you


enjoy it? Why or why not? Is it valuable for other
7th grade students to read?

Writing a Review
Hints:
You may choose to summarize the plot or not - but do not give away
.any surprises
Consider if you would recommend the story to another student or not
.and why
Consider your favorite (or least favorite) parts or comment on the
.authors style or ability to write a good story
Comment on other books someone who enjoyed this story may like to
.read - Ms. Slacum and Mrs. Davis are good resources for this question
Consider giving it a grade and explaining your grading criteria so others
.can grade it too
Should Mrs. Davis share this story with her classes next year?
Why or why not?

Here is a sample review to get you started:


O'Henry is a great story-teller. I have read other stories by him and he is the master of coming
up with surprise endings. The language can be difficult to understand but when I as reading I
used the context clues to help me decide what some of the words meant. I like that the story
move quickly. O'Henry doesn't give the reader too much detail and dialogue. You have to get
to know the characters from their actions. The actions occur quickly and the plot changes
quickly with them. For example, at one point in the story Jimmy Valentine is a bank robber
who is settling into a new town- I presumed to rob the banks in that town and then the next
minute in the story he is a changed man with a different name. There were no long
descriptions of the things that made him change - it seems O' Henry left that up to me - the
reader - to imagine and fill in for myself. I think it is an important story to read because it lets
you know O' Henry's style of writing - plus this story is entertaining because of the twist at the
end.
Posted by Mrs. Carcoura

What is the Verbal Irony in the short story A


Retrieved Reformation?
An example of verbal irony in the story A Retrieved Reformation would be when the
warden is saying "Oh , no. Of course not." That is the response to Jimmy Valentine
saying, "Me? I have never cracked a safe in my life." This is an example of verbal irony
because we all know that Jimmy Valentine is a burglar and he has cracked open a safe
before. Remember that verbal irony is basically sarcasm.

Question Excerpt From Retrieved Reformation quiz


Q.1)
A.
B.
C.

In A Retrieved Reformation, what does Jimmy Valentine do in prison that helps


him when he decides to go straight?

He gets a new suit of clothes


He works in the prison shoe-shop
he makes friends with the warden

Q.2)

How do the prison wardens words to Jimmy provide a clue to the surprise ending
of A Retrieved Reformation?

He says Jimmy is an "innocent" victim.


He says Jimmy is "not a bad fellow at heart"
C. He praises Jimmy for having friends in "high-toned society"
A.
B.

In A Retrieved Reformation, which of Jimmys actions gives a clue to his plans


Q.3)
when he is released from prison?
He goes to a restaurant and has a chicken dinner.
A.
B. He returns to his room and picks up his burglars tools.
C.

He offers to give a friend his suitcase of tools.

Q.4)

In A Retrieved Reformation, what does this description of Jimmy after his release
from prison tell you about his character?
He was now dressed in tasteful and well-fitting clothes, and carried his
dusted and cleaned suitcase in his hand.

Jimmy is wearing a disguise so Ben Price wont find him.


A.

Jimmy is neat and likes to dress well.


C. Jimmy wants to make people think he has changed.
B.

Q.5)

In A Retrieved Reformation, what happens in Arkansas that makes Jimmy


become another man?

Ben Price catches up to Jimmy.


A.
B.
C.

Jimmy hides from the authorities for a year.


Jimmy falls in love.

Q.6)

In A Retrieved Reformation, how might Annabel Adamss father feel about


Ralph if he knew the young man was really Jimmy Valentine?

Mr. Adams would admire Jimmy for his clean work.


A.
B. Mr. Adams would respect Jimmy for knowing people in high society.
C.

Mr. Adams would despise Jimmy for being a safe cracker.

Q.7)

A.
B.
C.

Why is Ralph Spencer the phoenix that arose from Jimmy Valentines ashes in
A Retrieved Reformation?

Jimmy gave up his life of crime and gave himself a new name.
Jimmy pretended to be dead in order to escape Ben Price.
Ralph Spencer died when Annabel learned he had been a burglar.

Q.8)Which situation is not a sign of Jimmys changed life in A Retrieved Reformation?


Jimmys shoe store is flourishing.
A.

Jimmy is engaged to Annabel Adams.


C. Jimmy has kept his suitcase of burglary tools.
B.

Q.9)

A.
B.
C.

In A Retrieved Reformation, why does Jimmy ask Annabel for the rose shes
wearing before he cracks open the safe?

He hopes the rose will bring him good luck as he tries to save the little girl.
He plans to use the rose as one of the tools to help get the safe open.
He knows he will have to leave town, and he wants the rose to remember her by.

Q.10) In A Retrieved Reformation, why does Ben Price not arrest Jimmy Valentine?
A. He admires Jimmys abilities as a safe cracker.

.
B.

He thinks Jimmy is really Ralph Spencer.

C. He knows Jimmy exposed his past in order to save the child.

Q.11) A simulcast is a radio broadcast __________________ a TV broadcast.

A.
B.
C.
D.

advertising
just before
that occurs at the same time
that costs more than

Q.12) The accident occurred when two car enter the intersection _______________.
A.
B.
C.
D.

simultaneously
unobtrusively
assiduously
speciously

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