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After Twenty Years

An analysis of the famous story by O Henry.

Anthony Kuntz

on 14 January 2014

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Transcript of After Twenty Years

Observing details: Interested in story Seems suspicious

Connecting details: Actions of the cop Words of stranger

Making inferences: Could be Jimmy Might not be Jimmy

Concluding: Whether he is or is not Jimmy Wells.
O. Henry sounds as if telling an ominous story.

Uses dialogue as the primary method of unraveling plot.

Warmly characterizes both Bob and Jimmy.

Uses very few similes and metaphors; is usually more direct.
Style and Language
Exceptionally short.
Story unfolds through dialogue.
Short, fictional story.

Well known for its surprising, twist ending.

Effectively uses setting and vivid imagery.

Told by a limited, third-person narrator.
The Story: After Twenty Years
Written in 1905
Written by O. Henry
After Twenty Years

Better known by his pen name: O. Henry.
American writer.
Known for his wit, wordplay, and clever endings.
Stories usually take place in 20th century New York City.
Possibly his most famous story: "The Gift of the Magi" has been copied, re-worked, parodied and retold in countless fashions.
William Sydney Porter
Reader is interested in the purpose of the police officer.

Reader is intrigued by Bob.
- Even though Bob is seen as mysterious and rugged, the
audience admires his dedication and determination to
meet his friend, and so is willing to root for him.

Reader is introduced to the stranger and gets to decide whether or not he really is Jimmy Wells.

Reader gets to decide whether he or she agrees with the actions of Jimmy Wells.
Experience of the Characters
By: Anthony Kuntz
After Twenty Years
1862 - 1910
Story begins with an
that sets scene.

Story's action
as Bob recounts the past.

is reached when Bob realizes that the stranger is not Jimmy Wells.

The action
as the stranger explains to both Bob and the audience.

Story is
wrapped up
in Jimmy's note, which provides the twist ending.
Elements of the Plot
Reader is invited to experience the plot as Bob does.
- Will Bob meet his friend?

Reader is limited in knowledge, resulting in his or her surprise at the ultimate ending.

Reader either enjoys the story for its twist or feels disappointed at Jimmy for his choice.
Experience of the Plot
Reader can decide whether to appreciate
the language of O. Henry, which depicts
the story as if being suspensefully told by
an unknown person.
Experience the Language
Officer Stranger
Reader evaluates the story's
Literary merit: How well the story is written and how well it accomplishes its goals.

Examples may include how surprised the reader is at the twist ending.

Aesthetic qualities: How well the story appeals to the reader as a work of art.

Examples may include how well the description of New York transported the reader to that location.
The reader is invited to compare their own values to those endorsed by the story.

The primary value addressed by the story is loyalty.

Loyalty to friends and loyalty to the common good are pitted against each other.

The story presents a scenario in which loyalty to the common good trumps loyalty to a friend. The readers are then invited to decide if their own values agree.
Question 1:
Do you agree with the choice of Jimmy Wells? Why or why not?
If you were in his shoes, what would you have done?
Question 2:
Were you surprised by the ending? Why or why not? If not, what could have been done differently to accomplish that goal?
Question 3:
Which characters did you like and which did you dislike? What made you feel this way towards these people?
Question 4:
Explain how setting contributed to the story. Did you enjoy the choice and role of setting? Do you think another setting could have done an equal or more effective job?
My apologies to anyone for whom I spoiled the ending!
Thank you for your attention and participation!

Are there any questions?
Imagery and Setting
O. Henry paints a dark and abandoned city street at midnight.

The shady and dark elements of the setting compliment the feeling of uncertainty.

The author focuses on his descriptions of Bob, Jimmy Wells, and the stranger so as to focus his audience on these people.

Vivid descriptions transport the reader into 20th century New York City.
It is difficult to identify one individual theme which the author meant to convey. Here are some possible interpretations of the author's intended theme:

The conflict of honesty and responsibility versus friendship and loyalty.

The power of destiny and fate, and how they can each lead people down different paths.

The measure of true success. Is the rich criminal or the poorer police officer more successful?

Irony and Symbol

Situational Irony - The very ending of the story is an surprising and unexpected twist.

Dramatic Irony - If the reader realizes that the stranger is not Jimmy Wells, he or she knows this while Bob himself still does not know.
Diamond scarfpin and watch with diamond encrusted lid represent dishonest wealth.

Police club symbolizes responsibility and duty.
Relation to My Life
Friendship versus Loyalty.

Difficulty in doing the right thing.

Defining success.
Full transcript