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Lesson Fourteen After Twenty Years O. Henry
Teaching Procedures Introduction to the background knowledge The structure of the text Detailed discussion of the text Conclusion of the text Assignment
About the author O. Henry (1862—1910) was the pen name of William Sydney Porter, an American short story writer. His short, simple stories are noted for their careful plotting, ironic coincidences, and surprise endings. O. Henry was born William Sydney Porter in Greensboro, North Carolina. He went to Texas in 1882 and worked at various jobs—as teller in an Austin bank (1891—1894) and as a newspaperman for the Houston Post.
About the author In 1898 an unexplained shortage in the Austin bank was charged to him. Although many people believed him innocent, he fled to the Honduras but returned to be with his wife, who was fatally ill. He eventually served three years in prison, where he first started writing short stories. Upon his release he settled in New York. Although his stories have been criticized as shallow and contrived, O. Henry did catch the color and movement of the city and evidenced a genuine sympathy for ordinary people.
About the author His approximately 300 stories are collected in Cabbages and Kings (1904), The Four Million (1906), The Voice of the City (1908), Options (1909), and others.
About The Text Plot of the story Bob and Jim had obviously been close friends twenty years ago when they were young. Before their separation, they made an appointment to meet again at exactly the same place and the same hour twenty years later.
About The Text Setting of the story On a business avenue of New York: The same hour: ten o’clock at night The same place: ‘Big Joe’ Brady’s restaurant 20 years ago—in the doorway of a hardware store now
About The Text Drama of the story When they met again twenty years later, they should find themselves on opposite sides of the law—one was the man wanted by the police and the other turned out to be the police officer instructed to watch out for the runaway criminal. But no matter how much Jim had cherished their friendship, he would not let a personal relationship stand in the way of discharging his duty.
About The Text Theme of the story
Loyalty to friend VS. devotion to duty
About The Text Protagonists of the story Bob smart restless ambitious ready to try in every way to reach his goal He had made his fortune, though. He had many fights. He had broken the law.
Jimmy average height a bit slow strongly built not so adventurous honest, truthful, responsible and devoted He was obviously a good police officer.
Structure of the text Part 1 (paras. 1—17) about:
The policeman (Jimmy) met with Bob and had a conversation.
Part 2 (paras.18—33) about:
Bob was arrested by a plain clothes man without his awareness until he found that the policeman was his expected friend Jimmy.
Detailed Discussion of the Text The impressiveness was… not for show, for spectators were few. (para. 1) This policeman was impressive in a natural way. He was not trying to look important, because it didn‘t make sense—there were few people in the street to see him. This description shows that Jim has become an excellent police officer.
Detailed Discussion of the Text Trying doors as he went… a guardian of the peace. (para. 2) This sentence showed Jim’s strong sense of responsibility. His clever swinging of the club showed his confidence and competence as a cop. His air of superiority showed his pride and sense of dignity as a law-enforcing officer.
Detailed Discussion of the Text In the doorway of a darkened hardware store a man leaned, with an unlighted cigar in his mouth. (para. 3)
It had to be a darkened store and Bob’s cigar had to be unlighted, otherwise Jim would see that it was the man wanted by the police in Chicago.
Detailed Discussion of the Text The light showed a pale, square-jawed face… oddly set. (para. 6) The match light showed a face which must have fitted the description of the wanted man. the diamond placed in a strange or unusual way showing the owner’s lack of taste
Detailed Discussion of the Text Haven’t you heard from your friend since you left? (para. 8) General questions in the negative are often used to show surprise or doubt. More examples: Mary’s back. Didn't you know? Are you not coming? It is really a wonderful game.
Detailed Discussion of the Text A man gets stuck in New York. It takes the West to make a man really keen. (para. 13)
A man is unable to go very far or to be very successful in New York. He can’t escape the boring life. He has to go to the West to become an eager and exciting person.
Detailed Discussion of the Text “Bless my heart!” exclaimed the new arrival, … (para. 22) (= bless my soul) used to express surprise This expression is rather old-fashioned. Here it refers to the man who has newly arrived.
Detailed Discussion of the Text Chicago… wants to have a chat with you. (para. 31) Here refers to Chicago police. Chicago police is trying to track you down, arrest you and take you to court.
Detailed Discussion of the Text Somehow I couldn't do it myself, so I went around and got a plain clothes man to do the job. (para. 33)
Somehow I couldn't arrest you myself, so I… Jim had mixed feelings. He knew what his duty was. But the memories of their friendship, the expressions of Bob’s undying respect and admiration for him and the fact that Bob had come all the way from thousand miles away just to keep the appointment made 20 years ago must have deeply touched him.
Conclusion of the text O. Henry is known for the surprise endings of his stories. This one is no exception. The story begins with a policeman on the beat. But we do not know it is Jim until the very end of the story. When the second policeman introduced himself as Jim we are also taken in.