Agatha is the five-year-old niece of Annabel Adams. Agatha is accidentally locked inside the new safe and vault while playing with her sister May at their grandfather’s bank. Jimmy uses his safecracking skills to save her life.
Annabel Adams is the daughter of Mr. Adams, the owner of the bank in the small town of Elmore, Arkansas. She catches the eye of Jimmy soon after he arrives there. Upon seeing Annabel for the first time, Jimmy decides to leave his criminal ways behind. Jimmy loves her and her family and how she feels about him. O. Henry writes, ‘‘Annabel’s pride in him almost equalled her affection.’’ For his part, Jimmy explains in a note to Billy, ‘‘I tell you, Billy, she’s an angel. She believes in me; and I wouldn’t do another crooked thing for the whole world.’’ It is for Annabel that Jimmy reveals his safecracking skills to save Agatha, but Jimmy’s status in her life is unclear at the end of the story.
Annabel Adams’s Married Sister
Annabel Adams’s married sister is the daughter of Mr. Adams and the mother of May and Agatha. She accepts Jimmy as a member of her family during her sister’s courtship. She becomes hysterical when her youngest daughter is accidentally locked in the safe at her father’s bank.
Mr.AdamsisthebankownerinElmore,Arkansas, whom O. Henry describes as ‘‘the typical, plodding country banker.’’ Mr. Adams has two daughters. One is married with two young daughters of her own. The other is Annabel, and Mr. Adams approves of her engagement to Jimmy. After Mr. Adams shows off his new bank safe and vault to Jimmy and his family, one of his granddaughters gets locked into the safe. Mr. Adams thinks there is no one nearby with enough skill to break it open and save Agatha until Jimmy saves the day.
Billy is the recipient of Jimmy’s letter. In the note, Jimmy arranges a meeting to give Billy his safecracking tools because he wants to live a normal life with Annabel.
Cronin is the prison guard who brings Jimmy to the warden at the beginning of the story. After the warden tells Jimmy about his pardon, Cronin returns him to his work and gets him a set of clothes for his life outside of prison walls.
Mike Dolan owns a cafe´ where Jimmy Valentine has a room. Mike left Jimmy’s room there untouched after Jimmy was arrested and sent to prison. Mike is part of a group that helped get Jimmy pardoned and released from prison. When Mike asks Jimmy if he has a job lined up, Jimmy says he represents a food company.
Dolph Gibson is the driver of Jimmy’s horse and buggy on his way to the railway station when Jimmy is scheduled to leave for Little Rock before Agatha gets stuck in the safe.
May is Annabel’s nine-year-old niece. She accidentally locks her younger sister, Agatha, in the safe at her grandfather’s bank.
Planters’ Hotel Clerk
When Jimmy stops in Elmore, Arkansas, he talks to the hotel clerk about the community. The clerk answers Jimmy’s questions about the town and the prospects for opening a shoe store there. The clerk is impressed by Jimmy’s appearance and the way he carries himself.
Ben Price is the respected detective who has been on Jimmy’s trail several times. Price arrested Jimmy at his room in Mike Dolan’s cafe´ (losing a button in the process) and helped get him convicted. After Jimmy is released from prison on a pardon from the governor, Price begins to track him again after several safes are robbed. Price finds the reformed Jimmy in the small Arkansas town seemingly living an upright life. Price is in the bank when Jimmy is forced to use the tools of his trade to save the niece of his fiance´ e. Price does not arrest Jimmy but allows him to go on his way.
Ralph D. Spencer
See Jimmy Valentine
Jimmy Valentine is the primary character in ‘‘A Retrieved Reformation.’’ At the beginning of the story, he is in prison for breaking into a safe. Though Jimmy tells the prison’s warden that he is not a safecracker and did not commit the crime, he immediately begins to ply his trade after being pardoned only ten months into a four-year sentence. Before Jimmy begins breaking into safes, however, he travels to the cafe´ owned by Mike Dolan. There, Jimmy learns that Mike and others helped gained the pardon for him. Jimmy also gains access to his room where his expensive safecracking tools have been kept and where he was arrested.
After committing several crimes, Jimmy makes his way to Elmore, Arkansas. As soon as he enters the town, Jimmy sees Annabel Adams, falls in love on the spot, and decides to leave his life of crime behind. Jimmy changes his name to Ralph D. Spencer and opens a successful shoe store in the community. He also becomes involved with Annabel and is engaged to her within a year. Shortly before the wedding is to take place, Jimmy writes a letter to a former colleague, Billy, and arranges a meeting to give Billy the tools of his safecracking trade.
The day Jimmy is to meet Billy in Little Rock—and buy his wedding suit as well as a gift for Annabel—fate intervenes. Annabel’s young nieces are playing with their grandfather’s new safe and vault when the elder locks the younger inside. Because no one else in the area knows how to break into the vault and save the young girl, Jimmy responds to their cries for help. He demonstrates his expertise in safecracking and rescues Agatha.
The warden is in charge of the prison where Jimmy is serving his sentence. He informs Jimmy he has been pardoned by the governor ten months into his prison term and advises him to leave his criminal life behind. He also tries to talk to Jimmy about his crimes, but Jimmy denies being a safecracker and burglar let alone in the cities where the crime he was convicted of took place. Before Jimmy leaves prison, the warden gives him a cigar.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 31, O. Henry, Published by Gale Group, 2010