Book III

Summary: Chapter 7: The Shop-Behind-the-Shop

Theo wakes up in Hobie’s house very sick and feverish, but he is comforted by the familiar sounds of the city and the sights and smells in the house. Theo becomes upset when Hobie asks about his grandparents. He explains that when they learned about Larry’s death, they didn’t even ask how Theo was, which he interpreted as their lack of care for him. Hobie tells him to go back to bed and takes care of him. Pippa sits with Theo and, along with Popper, provides color and comfort. When Theo gets a text from Boris saying that he’s in the MGM Grand with some kids from school, Theo feels the loss of his friend sharply. On Monday, Theo calls Bracegirdle, who informs him that there is indeed money in his account that he can draw from but that he was suspicious when he called from Las Vegas because he didn’t trust Larry. He is sad to hear of Larry’s death but glad that Theo is back in New York. Bracegirdle promises to meet with Theo to arrange details for his care.

Soon, Pippa leaves for Mont-Haefeli, a boarding school in Switzerland for troubled girls that her aunt has chosen. Pippa and Theo have bonded again during this time, and it’s hard for Theo to see her go. After Pippa leaves, Theo lies in her bed to be surrounded by her things and her smells. Hobie and Theo meet with Bracegirdle, who agrees that Hobie can serve as his temporary guardian. He arranges a stipend for Theo’s expenses. Theo busies himself studying for tests to get into an early-college program in New York, but all the while he is haunted by his father’s death and feels responsible. Hobie continues to work in his shop, which he calls the “hospital.” Mrs. DeFrees, another art dealer, talks to Theo about Welty and comments that the ring did its job by leading Theo straight to Hobie.

Theo fears that the painting will be discovered in his room. When he sees a headline about three stolen pieces from the museum bombing being recovered, he panics. The pieces were taken by a paramedic who knew nothing about art and who is being prosecuted along with his mother, whose house he used to hide them. One of the articles mentions The Goldfinch, which worries Theo even more. He worries that Hobie could be implicated. To calm down, Theo takes two pills from the stash he stole from Xandra, hoping that one of them will make him sleep. 

Summary: Chapter 8: The Shop-Behind-the-Shop, continued

Theo is accepted into the early-college program, which thrills Hobie. The program is not very rigorous. He takes the minimum number of courses and does not participate much in classes or extracurricular activities. Theo roams the streets, rides the subway, and misses Boris. Chinatown reminds him of Larry’s seediness and flash. Theo works hard to help Hobie with the restorations, all the while anxious about the painting. Theo accompanies Hobie all over the city, visiting friends and clients, attending art auctions, and dining at restaurants. In one, an employee thinks Theo is Hobie’s son.

One day, Theo returns from school to find firemen in their house because mice have chewed the wires. At this time, a Russian named Grisha who moves furniture for Hobie asks Theo to go with him to a storage unit to retrieve some pieces. This gives Theo the idea to store the painting somewhere safe. He finds a facility, purchases a tent bag to put the bundled-up painting in, and pays for a locker for two years. On his way home from hiding the painting, Theo walks past his old apartment building. It’s been sold. It’s being torn apart and turned into upscale condos. 

Analysis: Chapters 7 & 8

The state that Theo is in when he returns to Hobie in New York is dire. He barely recognizes himself in the mirror. He’s filthy and sick, but he recovers. Pippa’s presence helps, in a kind of reversal of his visits after she was injured in the bombing. Aside from his drug and alcohol binges in Las Vegas, from which he recovers quickly, this is physically the lowest point for Theo in the novel so far. The trip from Las Vegas has been long and arduous, and Larry’s death and the loss of Boris weigh heavily on Theo’s heart. He admits to himself that he’s worried that his drug use has irreparably damaged his health and resolves to do better.

Although this phase is relatively stable compared to his life in Las Vegas, Theo still floats through his days and weeks in a numbness and solitude that mirror his feeling right after the bombing. When he finds out that he’s been accepted to the early-college program, he can’t even muster enthusiasm. At school he does the bare minimum in every way and does not enjoy anything other than being with Hobie and the furniture. Theo lacks joy and purpose in his life. In addition, New York reminds him of both parents in ways that Las Vegas never did, and no matter where he goes, he’s reminded of one of them and the pain deepens. When he discovers that Sutton Place is being torn apart, it shocks and saddens him. He will never see the friendly doormen again and never be able to visit his former home that he shared with his mother. It is yet another layer of loss, another element being erased from his life.

Readers learn more about Welty in these chapters since most of the action takes place in his former home with Hobie and includes some of his former clients. Welty loved people and loved marketing antiques. People trusted him, and he could always send them away with the perfect purchase. Mrs. DeFrees recalls Welty with great affection and describes his unique genius for matchmaking people with antiques. As she also observes, Welty knew exactly what he was doing when he gave the ring to Theo because the ring led Theo to Hobie. Welty’s simple act set Theo’s and Hobie’s entire relationship into motion.

Theo uses a potent image to describe his current state, one that was introduced much earlier in the novel, in Chapter 1. When he first picked up the painting in rubble of the museum, when Welty was barely alive, he comments on the two parts of his mother: the part that was there and the part that was no longer there, her body and her soul. Theo says that the invisible part is the most important part. This imagery appears again in Chapter 7 when Theo wonders if the explosion had knocked his body and his soul into two separate entities that remain about six feet apart. It is a poignant moment of self-analysis and one that speaks volumes about his psychiatric state. It also might explain why he is so lost and detached sometimes, especially in moments of heightened pleasure or low despair.

There are glimmers of lightness, hope, and a new normalcy in these two short chapters. Theo and Hobie spend more and more time together and bond in deeper ways as if they are father and son. Theo has lost Larry, but he’s regained Hobie, the healthiest relationship in his life. He has lost Boris, but he has regained Pippa, at least for a short time. A victory for Theo in these chapters is finding a solution to his anxiety about protecting The Goldfinch from being found. After two near discoveries, moving the painting to a secure and secret storage facility is genius. It will be accessible but safe, hidden yet present. Except for taking the two pills one night, Theo does not rely on drugs to get him through his days.