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Essay About O’Henry

Authors of short stories use elements of style to make their stories interesting. There are many elements of style used by authors. Irony and theme are often used in short stories. This is clearly shown in O. Henry’s short stories such as: “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Lickpenny Lover,” “The Midsummer Knights Dream,” “The Cop and the Anthem,” and “Ships.” The short stories of O. Henry use the element of theme to bring about ironic endings.

In “The Gift of the Magi” there are elements of theme throughout the entire story. One example of theme in the story is that poverty affected both the main characters Jim and Della. Jim and Della both lived in a poor neighborhood with very little money. They both wanted to get each other a very meaningful Christmas present. Another element of theme in this story is that Jim and Della realize how much they love each other. Eugene Garcia fines that “In this trite little tale of mutual self-sacrifice between husband and wife, O. Henry crystallized dramatically what the world in all it’s stored up wisdom knows to be of fundamental value in ordinary family life”(short story criticisms 192). The theme of this story should always be kept in mine that love is more important then money.

Another example of an element of style is irony. Each person selling something valuable to them shows irony in “The Gift of the Magi”. Della had only saved up one dollar and eighty-seven cents to get Jim a Christmas present. Since she did not have enough money she went to a store and sold her hair. Jim at the same time went to a store to sell his watch for money for Della. They both got each other gifts with the money they had gotten from selling their items. The gifts that they sold each had something to do with what they had gotten each other. Della had gotten Jim a medallion for his watch, while Jim had gotten Della beautiful combs for her hair. Arthur Voss finds that it is ironic in “O. Henry’s famous story of the young married couple, each of whom sells a treasured possession to obtain money to buy a Christmas present for the other” (short story criticisms 114). The ironic conclusion of the story is that both Della and Jim were unable to use the gifts they had gotten each other.

The short story “A Lickpenny Lover” had a similar theme to “The Gift of the Magi.” The reoccurring theme in “A Lickpenny Lover” was that money was not everything. Masie is a young shop girl who is attractive and hardworking. Irving Carter a millionaire asks Masie on a date. He had tried to impress her with his money. Instead Masie did not think of Carter as a different person because of the money he had. She still saw him as a regular man who asked her on a date. Masie saw Carter as a wealthy man who did not like to use his money. Masie on the other hand did not like him more instead she liked him less for not being more generous with it.

Irony had played a big role in the story “A Lickpenny Lover.” One example of irony that occurs often was the misunderstanding of honest love. Garcia stated that in the story “Maize is incapable of knowing honest love from dishonest, and she is in consequence one of his least interesting women”(short story criticisms 193). When Masie was asked by Carter to get married she did not take him seriously. Garcia thought that “Masie even with her eyes open, rejects, her wealthy suitor because she thinks that his promise to take her to faraway places only means that he wanted her to marry him and go down to Coney island for a wedding tour”(short story criticisms 192). Masie only thought that Carter was using a come on line towards her. This just shows how ignorant masie was when judging Carter for being cheap, when he really was planning to take her to Europe.

The Theme that is identified in the story “The Midsummer Knights Dream” is that Mary married for love and not for money. This is shown throughout the entire story by the letter that Marry wrote to her husband describing how much she had missed him. Garcia points out that in the story “There is a contrast between Gaines dream of his courtship days in a mountain resort and the letter he receives from his wife as he sits sweating in a hot office building”(short story criticisms 191). Gaines is in the office rather than in the country because he can not afford it. He knows his wife enjoys it so he saves up to send her there. Since Gaines could not have what he wanted he made it less important to him. An example of this occurs when he is saying that he “hates the country in the summer and that the city is a much nicer resort”. He only says this because he is unable to go there.

The irony in “The Midsummer Knights Dream” is that Gaines really liked the country and missed it. Gaines missed the country because he used to enjoy fishing, but now since he can not go to the country he says he does not miss fishing. He only stayed in the city because could not afford to go to the country. Gaines decided to make the best of the situation by saying that the city was the best summer resort in the world to his assistant Adkins. Adkins could not understand that Gaines felt this way because he was unable to have something he wanted. He was used to getting what he wanted and a perfect example of this was his wife Mary.

Another story “The Cop and the Anthem” has shown a similar theme throughout the story. A important lesson learned in this story is that if you wish for something bad enough it might just come true. The main character of Soapy shows this. Donald Peel finds that in this story “in which a hobo tries unsuccessfully to get arrested so that he can get food and shelter and then is arrested after he decides that he will give up his vagabond ways”(The American Consciousness 230). This shows that Soapy could not change because of the circumstances he was surrounded by. He really wanted to change for the better, but he was unable to because he was homeless and had a poor look about him.
In the story “The Cop and the Anthem” the ironic element which is shown is that when Soapy is ready to change he got what he originally wanted which was to get arrested and go to jail. Ironically Soapy was in a church when he had decide to change his mind about his direction of his life. Then all of a sudden a policeman had arrested him for trespassing and gave him six months in jail. Soapy had got arrested unintentionally, when at first he wanted to get arrested. He finally got what he really wanted, which was to go to jail, to eat and have a place to live for six months. This proves that a person who wants to change can not always have the power to do it at that particular moment. In order to change it usually takes time; Soapy had found it out the hard way.

In the story “Ships” an example of theme is how the main character Johnny tries to overcome his poverty and change his position in life. He devises a plan to get rich quick for himself and the shop owner Mr. Hemstetter. Kent Bales explains that “In order to sell shoes, for example, a character imports cockleburs into the near paradise of Anchuria, O. Henry’s fictional Honduras”(American Writers Supplement 409). The cockleburs were at one point not selling to anyone and Johnny was loosing money. O. Henry would use made up places in his writings to help develop the theme as he did in “Ships”. Therefore that is why he had chose a poor fictitious country in Central America. He shows how this can possibly happen in real life to people who want to get rich.

The Irony in the “Ships” is that Johnny who is poor and the factory owner, who is also poor soon, become rich in a short amount of time. When a company carrying cockleburs come to the island looking to sell them. The factories owner buys them, then realizes know one is going to buy them. Bales states that “The enterprising exporter of the original barrel of cockleburs shows up with two ships full of the no longer necessary seeds, expecting to sell them to the factory he imagines must somehow use them”(American Writers Supplement). Johnny and the factory owner pout the cockleburs down on the beach. They put them down on the beach in order for people to buy shoes. After they make a lot of money Johnny leaves the island. The guy who grows the cockleburs now was stuck with much to many of them. Johnny now out of the country, because he realized that there was no more demand of shoes so he got out while he still would make money. Now everybody in they country had shoes to walk around in so there feet would not hurt.

Elements of style are important devices in helping authors put great emphasis on important issues in their stories. It also helps prove an author’s point while writing a story. This is shown throughout many of O. Henrys short stories by the example of poverty. O. Henry has put great emphasis on the two important elements of style in his short stories, which is theme and irony. In the stories written by O. Henry many of them have shown different examples how the element of theme came to bring about ironic endings.

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