Summary: Chapter 4: Morphine Lollipop

Hobie brings Theo into the messy antique shop, and they have a long conversation. Theo learns that the old man at the museum, Welty, was Hobie’s business partner. He was also Pippa’s uncle, who cared for her after Juliet, her mother, died. Pippa is alive but suffered a skull fracture and broken leg. Hobie knows Mrs. Barbour because she buys antiques. He tells Theo that he’s read about him in the Times. Theo asks if he can see Pippa, and Hobie lets him. He sits on her bed, they talk, and he takes her hand. The doorbell rings when her nurse arrives, and Hobie tells Theo he’s welcome to visit anytime. Back at the Barbours, Theo tells Andy about the visit. They talk about Audrey, whom Andy liked very much. Theo’s appetite returns. When he sees Dave, his psychiatrist, he agrees that he’s beginning to feel better, but he doesn’t tell him about Hobie and Pippa.

Theo visits Hobie and Pippa again and learns that her aunt, Margaret, plans to take her to Texas to live. Pippa doesn’t want to go. Theo tells Pippa that his mother loved horses. They hold hands and listen to music. When Pippa kisses Theo, he feels dazed, a feeling he likens to having a morphine lollipop. Later, Hobie tells Theo the story of Juliet’s childhood with Welty and takes Theo to his workshop, where he restores and repairs furniture. Theo is fascinated, and Hobie lets him help. When Theo’s counselor, Mrs. Swanson, encourages him to find a hobby, he realizes that helping Hobie is just that. He’s learning about furniture and growing fond of Hobie, who shares stories of his life with Theo.

Theo considers telling Hobie about The Goldfinch and sees a photo of it in the newspaper saying that it had been destroyed. Hobie tells Theo the story of how he met Welty, came to work for him, and learned his trade from another restorer. Mrs. Barbour invites Theo to go to Maine with the family for the summer. Andy tells Theo that he suspects that his parents want to adopt him. However, the prospect is squashed when Theo’s father, Larry, appears at the Barbours’ with his girlfriend, Xandra. Larry, a washed-up actor and only a few months sober, wants to go back to the apartment, which makes Theo recall how Larry stole from Audrey before he left. Theo, worried about The Goldfinch, which is still with his belongings, agrees to go to the apartment with them.

Back at the Sutton Place apartment, Theo is overwhelmed by sights and smells. He lovingly studies a photograph of Audrey. Theo grabs the painting while Larry describes how hard it was to live with Audrey. Theo packs a suitcase with clothes, wraps the painting in newspaper, and tucks it inside. He leaves his father and Xandra in the apartment and goes downstairs, where he sees the doormen, Goldie and Jose. Goldie hugs him, and both men lovingly recall Audrey before telling Theo men have been looking for Larry. Theo gives Jose the suitcase to keep until he returns for it.

Later, Theo, Larry, and Xandra go to dinner and order champagne. Xandra sneaks a glass for Theo, who sneaks another for himself. Theo thinks about his mother and how she’d gone to live with her harsh, unloving Aunt Bess after her parents died. He blurts out that his mother did not deserve the bad things that happened to her. The Barbours see that Theo is drunk when he returns and send him to bed. Larry packs up things at the apartment quickly, and then he, Theo, and Xandra head to Las Vegas. Before leaving, Theo visits Hobie to say goodbye, thinking he’ll never see him again. 

Analysis: Chapter 4

In this chapter, Theo’s relationship with the Barbours grows into something like love. For example, Andy and Theo talk openly and honestly about Theo’s visit to Hobie and Pippa, and Andy expresses his feelings about Theo’s mother. They recall an incident at a horror-fan convention when a strange man followed them trying to talk to Audrey. They joke with each other, tossing fake insults back and forth, as if they were brothers. The other Barbour siblings warm up to Theo too, joking and bantering during meals. Mrs. Barbour invites Theo to spend the summer with them in Maine, and Theo just might be interested in boating. When Andy suggests that his parents might be considering adopting Theo, making him a permanent part of their family, Theo is pleased at the prospect. Mrs. Barbour doesn’t trust Larry to take good care of Theo. What began as an awkward and temporary respite born of convenience and an oddly remembered phone number has grown into a safe and positive situation that seems to benefit everyone.

The Barbours aren’t the only ones with whom Theo feels safe. The ring leads him to Hobie and Pippa, and in them, he finds the other half of his new family. Theo is immediately attracted to the tall, humble Hobie, who treats him like an adult and listens carefully when he talks. Hobie is honest, kind, and generous with his time and attention. When he invites Theo to help him with a piece of furniture, he becomes not only a friend but also a mentor and father figure. A genuine affection grows between the two, and they share an affection for Pippa. Pippa emerges as Theo’s love interest. Without understanding why, he reaches for her hand, and when she kisses him, he feels dazed. After his first visit to her, his appetite returns, and he starts to gain some of the weight he’s lost. Theo and Pippa bond over losing their parents, and she looks forward to seeing him again. Even though Pippa moves to Texas, they will see each other again.

The painting continues to haunt Theo, and in this chapter, he hides it in a safe place, or so he believes. When he sees the photo in the Times with the caption that the painting was destroyed, he feels relief, thinking that he can now safely keep it in his possession. Theo considers telling Hobie or even Mrs. Barbour about The Goldfinch, but in the end, he decides to protect his secret. The painting connects him to Audrey in many ways. It meant so much to her, so now it does to him. When Larry insists on going to the apartment, the painting is what Theo cares about most, not his personal items or his mother’s. When he tucks the painting into the suitcase with his clothes and gives the suitcase to the doormen for safekeeping, Theo is protecting the last thing that connects him to Audrey.

Readers learn more about Larry when he and Xandra suddenly reappear in New York. As Larry reminds Theo, there are two sides to every story, and so far, readers only know Theo’s. Even though he has stopped drinking, Larry hasn’t changed his ways. He ignores Theo at dinner just as he used to ignore him at home. He speaks poorly of Audrey and accuses her of holding grudges and falsely accusing him of theft. Larry hated Audrey and explicitly tells Theo his feelings. He thinks of himself as a great actor, akin to Mickey Rourke, but he doesn’t get acting jobs anymore. Larry’s a fake, a braggart, and a charmer who does not treat others well. He likely won’t change once they are back in Las Vegas.

The dismantling of the Sutton Place apartment is brief but chillingly poignant. Theo makes a vivid comparison to a cartoon character who uses an eraser to rub out everything in his house and another to a bee watching its hive being destroyed. His description of Audrey’s photograph is loving and devoted in its specific detail, including a tiny scar above her eyebrow. Dismantling the apartment is another layer of loss, one that occurs, like the first, with sickening speed.