Summary: Chapter 12: The Rendezvous Point

Theo is alone in his hotel room, still sick, obsessing about everything as Christmas approaches. He sees his father as a twenty-five-year-old in one of the movies in which he played a minor role and realizes he looks just like Larry. He tries to text Boris but realizes that his phone no longer works. He also no longer has his passport, so he can’t flee to Paris. He contacts the American embassy only to learn that it will take ten business days to obtain a new passport.

On Christmas Eve, Theo contemplates two options: suicide or turning himself in for the murder. He chooses suicide, so he writes letters to Kitsey, Pippa, and Mrs. Barbour, explaining why he ended his life. When he begins a letter to Hobie, it turns into an incoherent story about him and his mother trying to save a puppy. After drinking excessively, Theo throws up and throws himself facedown on the bed. He dream-hallucinates that his mother is standing behind him as he stands in front of a mirror. She smiles as if she has a secret. Theo later wakes on Christmas morning to church bells ringing. His suicide attempt failed, and Theo resolves to turn himself in.

Suddenly, Boris arrives, exuberant but rumpled. He returns Theo’s passport and recalls the joyful meal that Theo, Larry, and Xandra shared with him one Christmas long ago. Boris hands Theo a bag containing thousands of dollars in cash. Boris realized that Theo had been right about informing the police about the painting. In an intricate plan, Boris reported the location of The Goldfinch to the police and received a substantial reward. Sascha is in jail, and dozens of other stolen masterworks were also recovered. Overjoyed, Boris credits Theo for the victory. They talk about Larry, whom Boris admires and credits, and Martin, whom Boris feels deserved to be shot. Boris takes Theo to Antwerp for a few days to recover.

Two days later, Theo returns to Hobie in New York City. Hobie tells Theo it was inappropriate to give Pippa such an expensive gift. He is also upset about the extent and longevity of Theo’s fraud, which he learned about from Lucius Reeve. Hobie confesses that he feared that Theo would not return after he read about the art thefts in Amsterdam and discovered that Theo had ransacked the house. Theo tells Hobie the entire story of The Goldfinch. Hobie shows Theo a faded photo of Welty as a child with a print of the painting hanging behind him. He explains that, on the day of the explosion, Welty had taken Pippa to see the original. Hobie also shares a story from his own childhood about being taken in by a woman who collected antiques. They talk about beautiful objects and how they can change a person’s life. Hobie thinks that certain timeless pieces of art speak directly over centuries to certain people who love them, objects like The Goldfinch.

Theo spends the next year traveling the world to repurchase the frauds that he sold as real. He feels suspended between two worlds and questions the goodness of his own heart. He breaks his official engagement with Kitsey but maintains a connection with the Barbours. Pippa returns the necklace and tells Theo that she loves him but that they should not be together. They have too much pain in common. Theo writes a book, telling his story. He concludes that life is catastrophe, but he refuses to hold back and not live to the fullest. Theo only takes drug occasionally. He believes that fate is cruel but not random. He still loves beautiful things. 

Analysis: Chapter 12

When Theo sees his father in the movie, he realizes that he could be his father’s twin. This haunting feeling that he has become his father culminates in this chapter. It is part of the guilt that he has carried with him since the bombing. The guilt leads him to choose suicide, but his attempt fails. That night, after vomiting, Theo dream-hallucinates the visit from his mother that readers first learn about in Chapter 1, and he realizes that everything that has happened is all a circle back to her. Her smile is the smile of a mother who has a secret, and a surprise awaits Theo on Christmas Day.

Much of this final chapter is philosophical, imparted by three main characters: Boris, then Hobie, and finally Theo himself. Boris tries to correct some of his past wrongs and make things right with Theo, whom he cherishes as a friend and credits as a genius and a mentor, the true brains from the start. It is surprising but fitting that Boris ends up following Theo’s advice. He learns that he can make lots of money by reporting stolen art and reaping the rewards, quite a revelation and reverse of habit for this career criminal. Boris believes that life is good and that Theo’s dark outlook is unhealthy. He believes that Martin deserved to be killed and that the murder was in self-defense. The painting is important to Boris because it is so important to Theo, and returning it makes him a fortune. That so many other paintings are recovered too makes it all worthwhile and makes everyone rich. To Boris, a man who takes life’s opportunities, whether “right” or “wrong” as they present themselves, it’s a joyful, unexpected miracle. Sometimes the wrong way is the right way. A person can take the wrong path and still end up in the right place.

Hobie’s philosophy is much broader, more about life than the choices of any one individual. After hearing Theo’s entire story, Hobie’s first response is that time plays tricks and surprises and that things swing around strangely. He immediately connects Welty, whom he loved deeply, with Theo and the painting. That moment in the museum connected them all intimately and timelessly. Beautiful art objects are all that hold value, and it is a value that has nothing to do with money. Hobie admits that at first, he was unsure of Theo, but then he realized that the ring carried a message from Welty himself and from the universe. For Hobie, beautiful objects connect humans to a larger, universal beauty. At the same time, they reach out from their ancient histories to touch individuals with messages, as if they were created just for that person. Hobie lifts the entire novel, and the painting, to new heights of meaning. Theo essentially agrees, although he shares neither Hobie’s certainty nor his optimism.

Finally, the novel ends with Theo’s philosophy of life, born from his entire experience. It is as if he’s died, he feels, as he is now so different than he was when he was thirteen. He does not trust his own heart because he acknowledges that inward significance means more than outward appearances. Even though Theo’s making amends by repurchasing the fakes he sold, his heart is still dark. Kitsey, in a rejection of that kind of darkness, chooses to indulge in the normal and the ordinary and ends their engagement. Boris chooses to face life’s challenges and pain head-on, to throw himself headfirst into the fire. Hobie chooses to seek comfort and meaning in beautiful, timeless objects. In the end, Theo chooses writing to make sense of life. Theo believes that, if our secrets define us, then this book reveals all his secrets, including the painting. If every painting is a self-portrait, this book is his painting. He thinks no one will ever read it, but, of course, people do. And when readers are touched by his story, the novel has the potential to heal both the writer and them.