I used to claim that I wasn’t a big fan of fiction, particularly modern fiction. However, thanks to books like Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and some of the other fiction I’ve read this year, I’m willing to reconsider.
Throughout the story, you meet a lot of characters whose lives take interesting twists as the plot undulates and zig-zags through the course of the book.
Philosophically, I didn’t come away with seeing evil or good clearly embodied in any one person (though I think one character, perhaps two, seems mainly untainted by wrong choices and ethical compromises). In the narrative, you will see people who would be perceived as being solely evil, yet with glimmers of good humanity shining through (Theo’s dad and step-mom, for instance); on the contrary, you see primarily good characters with glimpses of evil coming through (Theo’s mom, Welty Blackwell, or members of the Barbour family). And then there is Theo himself, whose life is filled with circumstances that place him in both good and evil surroundings.
And in many characters, the lines between the two are even more blurred. However, I felt this theme carried an underlying profundity that is often overlooked when we romanticize and favor stories that sharply contrast the heroes and villians: that the propensity for doing evil lies within all of us, just as the same for doing good (Imago Dei and sin nature, in terms that a Christians would use.) Wrong choices do not necessarily make a person entirely evil, just as a few good choices do not make a person intrinsically good.
Underlying themes project the power of art, the power of money, the power of circumstances, and the power of friendship. If you go for it, I recommend going in unaware of the plot. The story itself is great, but there is also lots to think about. Some have commented that Tartt’s work her could have used a little more editing; perhaps that is true, but I don’t feel that this detracts from the overall quality of the book.