Friday, February 18, 2005

After Twenty Years by O. Henry

After Twenty Years by O. Henry

This story has only three characters. The first we meet is a policeman making his rounds, rattling door knobs to make sure everything is secure on his beat.

He approaches a man standing in a dark doorway. Our next character is Bob. He tells his story to the policeman. Bob and his best friend, Jimmy, had agreed to meet at 10 o'clock this night twenty years after parting company as young men.

As Bob relates his tale, we learn that Bob and Jimmy had chosen two different paths. Jimmy considered New York City the only place to live. Bob chose to go west to seek his fortune.

After hearing Bob's story, our police officer goes his way.

Soon, Bob is approached by another man. Jimmy arrives and greets his old friend. They walk down the street to find a place to eat. As the light shines on Jimmy's face, Bob realizes that this isn't Jimmy. Indeed, this is another policeman who places Bob under arrest for crimes commited in Chicago.

The arresting officer hands Bob a note from Jimmy. The note explains that the two men did meet on time. Jimmy had recognized Bob as being a man wanted by the authorities.

Positive lessons for young readers:

-Jimmy does his duty. Realizing that his old friend is a criminal at large, he arranges for him to be taken into custody. Although Jimmy is confronted with a moral dilema, he makes the choice to fulfill his duty as an officer of the law. He honors the oath he took when entered the police force. Make no mistake, this was a difficult choice for Jimmy.

-Jimmy finds a way to have Bob arrested without having to do the deed himself. He was unwilling to confront his old friend directly, so he found some help from a plain-clothes police officer. I view this as an act of courtesy to Bob. If Bob had resisted arrest, they would have had a nasty confrontation.

This story is part of a book titled For the Four Million by O. Henry available at The Gutenberg Project at on the internet.