AFTER TWENTY YEARS BY O’HENRY
After Twenty Years is a story of two friends who meet after twenty years at the appointed place and time. I have already published the full study notes of this story here and in this post, I am answering some more questions which are very important for students to go through.
‘After Twenty Years’ is written by William Sydney Porter an- American writer, under the pseudonym O’ Hennery. His adopting a pseudonym had definite reasons mainly his having been sentenced by the federal court to be behind the bars for 6 months as punishment for embezzlement during his first appointment as a banking assistant. While serving the term, he decided to shift from his home town New York to Chicago and live under a made-up name to avoid being jeered at. On emerging out of prison, he joined journalism and simultaneously started working at a short story, novel and other such genres. Eventually, he excelled in the art of short story and Novel. With the passage of time, he rose to the status of National Writer and came to be regarded as Guy De Maupassant of America so far as the genre of the short story is concerned.
‘After Twenty Years’ is one of the best short stories by O’ Henery, the topmost being – the gift of Maggie which has got him the rank of G.D.Muppasant of America. His novels and short stories are based on certain distinctive characteristics namely:
1. Chance occurrence
2. Flash Back Technique
3. Sudden ending
4. Tragi Comic ending
The main characters in the short story ‘ After Twenty Years’ namely Jimmy and Bob exhibit contrasting personality traits e.g. While Jimmy is a homesick sort of Guy, Bob represents dynamism and dash.
Jimmy is a contented sort of personality, Bob does not rest content but aspires always for more. Bob presents a typical example of American slogan of success i.e. hitch your wagon to the star – and the end justifies the means. He works all through his life to realize the dream but unfortunately over much success leads him astray and as such he ends as an underworld character- a smuggler and enemy of peace.
Jimmy presents the picture of a duty-bound citizen with controlled ego and tight-reined ambition. He subordinates everything to his discharging legitimate duties. He ends up with being a real guardian of peace while as his childhood friend and the best chum ends up behind the bars as an enemy of peace
SHORT SUMMARY OF AFTER TWENTY YEARS BY O’HENRY
The story is about two young bosom friends, Jimmy wells and Bob. They make a commitment to meet each other exactly after twenty years at the same place and on the same date and time, they part ways.
The story opens with an impressive policeman doing patrol duty late in a cold windy night on a nearly deserted street. It is the same spot where the two friends had promised to meet that night. Near the doorway of a darkened hardware store which had come up there in place of Big Joe Brady‘s restaurant, the policeman encounters a stranger. The square-jawed stranger‘s dress tells that he is wealthy. As he lights his cigar the policeman recognizes him but does not give him inkling. The man, trying to make sure the policeman does not suspect him, narrates the whole story of his life to the policeman and his purpose of standing there at such a late hour.
The man keeps on waiting. Then after about twenty minutes a tall man wearing a long overcoat directly approaches the waiting man and calls him by his name Bob. Bob mistakes the man for his real friend, Jimmy Wells. After a while, Bob recognizes it is not Jimmy. The tall man tells Bob that he is already under arrest. Before taking him to the police station, he hands Bob a note. The note clearly mentions that he was going to be arrested by the first officer on patrol duty. But he, being Bob‘s friend, Jimmy, could not bring himself to do it so he sent that plain clothes man from the police station to do the job.
DETAILED SUMMARY OF AFTER TWENTY YEARS BY O’HENRY
A short story–multi-thematic one dealing as it does with quite a number of themes simultaneously. The primary one being ‘Ego’….controlling human personalities. Written by W.S. Porter, an American National writer under pseudonym O’Henery.
The short story revolves around two main characters viz; Jim and Bob hailing from New York city of America— number one Metropolitan city of the world where life goes on and on all the twenty-four hours a day. The two chums actually represent and symbolize two sides of a single coin… two facets of Ego namely controlled one and uncontrolled one….the former promising calm, quiet, peaceful and contented life…..may or may not be too luxurious while as the later …..uncontrolled ego lands one always in trouble turmoil and discontent but bringing in timely and short-lived luxury. Jimmy represents controlled Ego while as Bob symbolizes uncontrolled one or egotism enlarged by underserved success.
The short story is based on four main features namely Chance Occurrence, Flashback technique, all too sudden an ending and uncertain finale i.e.; tragicomic finale. J. Wells, a homesick personality doesn’t agree to venture out of New York considering it to be the only place on the surface of the earth where one could be safe and comfortable. Due to lack of enterprise and dynamism, he ends up with being just a patrolman but lives a contented life. On the other hand Bob, a dashing and dynamic personality, always bent upon growing richer overnight, leaves for Central America to try his luck and joins the underworld just to satiate his lust for luxury and, as is inevitable, ends up in prison behind bars. Needless to say that he lives every second of his life in fear.
The story opens with the police walking down an avenue of Pacific thoroughfare quite impressively- the impressiveness being habitual and not speak the show because of the avenue being deserted and de-peopled quite early as a result of extremely bad weather characterized by chilly gusts of wind with a taste of rain in them and the nature (character) of the locality itself namely it’s being frequented by business establishments only that kept early hours. While on his official stroll, the policeman spots a man leaning in the darkened doorway of a hardware store with an unlighted cigar in his mouth.
The policeman slows down his walk and moves across the street towards the waiting man who is none other than Bob, the patrol man’s best chum who had parted from him twenty years before to work out his destiny but on a promise to return to New York after Twenty years to meet him. Bob panics on finding the patrolman approaching him and speaks up quickly to assure the policeman that he had no malignant intention and was just waiting for a friend. This statement by the waiting man makes the other realize that he (waiting man) is his friend Bob. However, as ill-luck would have it, the waiting man strikes a match to light his cigar and under its flicker, the policeman recognizes that the waiting man’s face resembles exactly the details in the text wired by the Chicago police. So he holds back disclosing his identity, moves around and sends a plain clothes’ man who arrests Bob but not before handing down to him rather a short note from Wells revealing that he was at the appointed place on time out, under obligation of his duty, he held back his identity and did what he was supposed to do as a dutiful citizen that is to get anti-social element, a smuggler, an underworld character arrested and booked by the law.
Questions And Answers of After Twenty Years
Q. How impressive was the policeman? How would you justify your answer?
Ans. The policeman was not snobbish. He was impressive but it was not for show. When he moved up the avenue, there were no people or a few people around him as it was 10 o’clock at night and the gusts of wind and a taste of shower had depeopled the street. Thus, his impressiveness just habitual. He was absorbed in his duty and his watchful eyes reflect that he was an honest policeman.
Q. Why did the man tell the policeman ‘It’s all right, officer.’?
Ans. The man was standing in the doorway of a darkened hardware store with an unlighted cigar in his mouth. When the policeman with watchful eyes came near to the man the man quickly told him that it was an alright office. He told him so because he wanted to assure him that he was not any criminal or was not there to harm anyone. He was waiting for his friend with whom he has had fixed an appointment to meet at the place and the time.