The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

From plot debriefs to key motifs, Thug Notes’ The Goldfinch Summary & Analysis has you covered with themes, symbols, important quotes, and more.

The Goldfinch (2013) | Written by: Donna Tartt | Published by: Little, Brown and Company

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Thug Notes Summary & Analysis

What’s happenin fam? This week we peepin’ mad beauty with The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

27 year old Theo Decker is holed up in an Amsterdam Hotel, sick as a dog and sweatin dat the po-po might bust in there any second. And even though he don’t blame nobody but hisself fo’ dis mess, he think he coulda stayed on the righteous path if his mama wouldna died fourteen years ago. Da majority of what follows in this book is a flashback.

When Theo was jus’ a lil G, he was hittin’ up an Art Museum wit his mama one day when he peep game at two of da finest thangs he ever seen- a red-head baby-girl name Pippa, and a painting called the Goldfinch. Brutha can’t keep his eyes of dat dime when BOOM- a bomb goes off killin almost errybody up in there- including Theo’s mama. Damn!

When Theo come to, da old geezer who was rollin wit Pippa, who named Welty, be all like “Uggh..Say bruh. My white ass bout to die. Take this ring and dat sh** over thurr.” Thinkin he talkin bout da Goldfinch painting, Theo boosts dat art and bounces befo’ da po-lice arrive. Since Theo don’t wanna hustle on da streets, brutha shack up wit his boy Andy and his fam, the Barbours. One day, Theo finds Welty’s old crew and returns the ring to his padna Hobie. Hobie like “Preesh blood.” Theo runs in to fine-ass Pippa there too, and he find out dat explosion left her all kindsa jacked up.

Their reunion don’t last long, cuz Pippa get shipped off to Texas even though Hobie want her to stay. Still, ain’t all bad for Theo, cuz Hobbie start schoolin him on how to restore antiques up in his shop.

Plus, Theo livin’ the ballas dream up at da Barbour crib. But all dat go to sh** when Theo’s high-as- balls pops, who walked out on Theo and his mama back then, swang in to town, scoop up Theo, and take him to live with him in Vegas.

Up in Sin City, Theo spend his nights smokin’ fatties wit his new friend Boris. Eventually Theo’s deadbeat daddy try to steal all Theo’s cash monies, and not long afta’ dat, dies in a car crash.

Theo know he gotta get da hell outta dodge befo’ he get thrown in to foster care or somethin’, so he packs up da Goldfinch and peaces out to New York, where he hits up Hobie. Turns out, booty-liscious Pippa there! But, as always, their reunion don’t last long.

8 years later, Theo hustlin w with Hobie slangin antique up in his shop. Theo still got his mind on Pippa 24/7, but she shacked up wit some playa in London. Since Theo cain’t have Pippa as his biddy, he get engaged to Kitsey Barbour, one of Andy’s sisters.

Truth is- homeboy been up to no good lately. Not only is he poppin’ pillz on the reg, but he been flippin FAKE antiques to people like it ain’t no thang, and now some hater is tryna backmail him fo’ doin it.

This dude- Lucius Reeve- even whip out da big guns and say “I know you know where da Goldfinch is. Don’t MAKE me sick da fuzz on yo ass.” Oh sh**.

Then Theo find out a day before his engagement party dat Kitsey still got it bad for some hood-ass brutha named Tom. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Boris show up and say he jacked The Goldfinch from Theo years ago and he been usin’ it fo’ some shady deals dat yieldin’ some PHAT stacks.

Feelin’ like a real dick, Boris tell Theo he wanna help him get it back. All they gotta do is fly to Amsterdam and get it from the dude who got it. Ain’t no thang, right? But when they get there, Boris pull out a piece and start goin hyphy in this bitch. Eventually, Boris gets one in da arm and Theo mercs a brutha, but some asshole gets outta there with the painting.

Thinkin they bout to get GOT by the law any second now, Boris and Theo split up; Theo just lock himself in a hotel room, throwin’ back pillz, and marinatin on suicide. Outta nowhere Boris come back and say “s’all good baby. I sicked the cops on those haters and now we got a swole reward fo’ finding da painting. Turn out, I actually led da 5-0 to a whole buncha paintins, so we simmin in change!” Now Theo in da clear with dat Reeve fool too.

When Theo get back to New York, he comes clean with Hobie bout selling slangin fake stuff, then he start traveling the world makin things right wit da people he played. In the end, he ain’t got Pippa, ain’t got the painting and things ain’t so hot with Kitsey. Man.

Sometimes loving beautiful things can be a real sh** show.

This book right hurr dun stirred up all sortsa beef between critics. Some say it’s a buncha bullsh** frontin’ like it all profound, while others sayin’ it’s da illest rhyme to hit the shelves in years. So when it won a Pulitzer in 2014, da haters REALLY started hatin’ on a girl- but on the real, errybody jus’ need to chill. This book got its share of literary swagger.

Tha two dopest motifs are fo-sho mirrors and da moon.

Theo mentions a dream bout his mama at da beginning of da book, and also at the end. And up in dream- world, Theo peepin her through a mirror.

Mirrors representin’ how da same thangs happenin over and over, all cyclical n’ sh**.

Fo’ example, Carel Fabritius, the thug who painted “The Goldfinch” painting died in an explosion. An ass-load of years later, the painting almost get wrecked in another explosion. This is what Theo’s mama callin “A Time Warp.”- a.k.a- “a way of seeing things twice, or more than twice.”

Also, Theo always bitchin bout how much of a deadbeat scrub his daddy be. But Theo shouldn’t be talkin mess, cuz he end up so strung out an fu**ed up dat they basically doubles of eachotha’- poppin pillz and gettin’ freak-nasty with mo’ than one girl at a time.

As for da moon, it usually representin da tension between permanence and impermanence. Check it- Theo’s mama lay a story on Theo dat her dad once told her:

“Daddy lifted me up on the fairgrounds and told me to look at the moon. ‘When you feel homesick,’ he said, ‘just look up. Because the moon is the same wherever you go.’” (254)

Thing is, after mama die and sh** start goin south for ol’ Theo, he
don’t actually see anythin’ familiar when he peepin’ da moon:
“the only point of reference was the moon, riding high above the clouds, which though bright and full seemed weirdly unstable somehow…not the pure anchoring moon of the desert” (663)

So if da moon ain’t always da same like mama say, then maybe NUTHIN’ stay the same fo’eva. Matta’ fact, dat becomes one of Theo’s main jams by da end of the book: art gonna last foreva’ but the clock is tickin’ fo human beings.

“For humans – trapped in biology – there was no mercy: we lived a while, we fussed around for a bit and died, we rotted in the ground like garbage. Time destroyed us all soon enough. (695)

After beastin through the pain of death, rejection, and drug addiction, Theo get real to’ up and realize dat humans ain’t nuthin mo’ than bags of meat that gonna rot one day. But dat painting, on the other hand, ain’t got no expiration date on it. Unlike humans, objects- like the painting, Hobie’s Noah’s Ark antique, and the Thug Notes book – gonna keep flowin through history, creatin’ mad meaning on its way.

“It exists; and it keeps on existing. And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things”

But since us humans jus’ shrivel up and die so damn fast, life is jus’ straight up meaningless. Girl even give a shoutout to my depressing- ass brutha Albert Camus at da beginning of da book sayin: “The absurd does not liberate. It binds.”

Look, ain’t no doubt there was a lotta thought put in do this piece, but to be honest, it ain’t really my thing. I mean, if life is absurd, then Theo cain’t be sayin’ sh** like da world is a “catastrophic cesspool.” Dat sound mo’ like extreme pessimism than absurdism to this thug.

But dat don’t mean there’s anything wrong with people liking it. It’s just different strokes fo’ different folks. So let me drop a time warp on yo ass and say again: this book ain’t ALL bullsh**, so don’t let the haters tell you otherwise. But that bein said, if you wanna check out a new book dat’s impressive as HELL, watch me break down Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn by clicking here. And yo- don’t forget to claim to own copy of da Thug Notes book. Coming out August 18. Get ‘em while they’re hot. Ya head? Peace!

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