O Henry

Henry was an American short-story writer. His original name was William Sydney Porter. Apart from O. Henry, he had other pen-names too, like S.H. Peters, James L. Bliss, T.B. Dowd, and Howard Clark.A Short Biography of O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)A Short Biography of O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)

William Sydney Porter was born on 11 September 1862 in Greensboro, North Carolina, United States.

He got his early education from his aunt Evelina Maria Porters school.

He started practicing in his uncles pharmacy store when he was sixteen and got his pharmacists license from there. During this period he used to draw sketches of people, this was the first expression of his artistic abilities.

In 1882, he moved to Texas in order to get rid of his persistent cough. From there he went to Austin where he did different jobs besides writing. Meanwhile, he fell in love with a girl from a rich family, named Athol Estes. On 1st July 1887, they eloped to get married.

Porter was given a job by his Land Commissioner friend, Richard Hall but he resigned from the job when his friend lost the next election.

The same year he started a job at a bank as a bank teller and bookkeeper but he was careless at bookkeeping. The bank accused him of embezzlement and fired him.

In 1894, he started a humourous weeklyTheRolling Stonebut it failed, though it had drawn him the attention of theHouston Post.He moved to Houston to continue his writing career. There he used to observe and meet people in hotel lobbies to gather information for his novel.

While in Houston, he was arrested in 1896 in the bank embezzlement case. His father-in-law appealed for his bail but one day before the trial, he fled to Honduras. There he wroteCabbages and Kingsand befriended Al Jennings, a notorious train robber and later on wrote about him in his book.

At that time, he was informed of Athols illness and he had to go back to Austin. After a few months, Athol died of tuberculosis and Porter was put in prison for five years in the embezzlement case. Since he was a licensed pharmacist he provided his services to Prison hospital.

While in jail, he published fourteen short stories with his pen name, O. Henry, to hide his identity. He was released for his good conduct after three years of service at the Prison hospital.

In 1902, His prolific writing period started in New York. He used to write one story a week forNew York World SundayMagazine.He wrote almost 381 short stories.

On 5 June 1910, he died in New York due to cirrhosis of the liver, at the age of forty-seven. He is buried in North Carolina.O. Henrys Writing Style

In the history of American Literature, OHenry is one of the most celebrated and well-known writers. He has an intense writing style. His writing is full ofparonomasia, irony, metaphor, exaggeration, and metonymy that make his stories humoristic and funny.His endings are surprising and design the plot of his stories dramatically. The endings of his stories are quite unexpected for the readers. Another important feature of his writing style is the combination of tragedy and comedy, i.e., tearful smile.

O Henry was very good at using different techniques and styles. His style containslocal color. As he was born in North Carolina, he directly belonged to Southern background. His writings are deeplyinspired by his native culture.The speech patterns and rhythm in the writings of OHenry are of common folks that add variety, vivacity, and interests in his stories.

Most of the stories of OHenry are about folks lifestyle in the South. The setting of almost thirty stories, of all stories, is of old South and deals with the attitudes and activities of common southern characters. His writings have a realistic touch as he takes dialogues from his own childhood and has first-hand experience with people of various classes. The main characters of his stories were mostly the people surrounding him.Many of his stories likeThe Ransom of Red Chief, The Gift of Magi and The Last Leafare also set in New York City which show his special affection for New York City and its people.

Most of hisnarrativeis based on his childhood in the South and his dealings with the criminals of Texas. He talks about his life with the criminals of Texas in his stories. He based the main characters of these stories with his first-hand experience with them.

His stories are interesting and his plots are twisted. He exaggerates his characters and makes them interesting. An example of exaggerated characters is in the short storyThe Ransom of Red Chiefwhich is perhaps the funniest among his short stories. Johnny, a little boy who is kidnapped by two kidnappers. He is not like normal kids who are terrified and sad being kidnapped rather he enjoys being kidnapped.

There are two basic styles of OHenry. He either wrote as a humorist like J.J. Hooper and A.B. Longstreet or with the local color. However, in both ways, the characters have the manner, speech, and attitude of southern people. The best examples of his local color style are Whistling Dicks Christmas Stocking, Georgias Ruling, and Money Maze.

OHenry has a great ability to useallusions. His literary allusions, particularly ancient classics and Shakespearean plays, show the artistry of O Henry with words. His short story, The Poet and the Peasant, has a lot of literary devices, including allusions.

The unique writing style of OHenry is the chief reason for his fame. His most famous short stories are interesting and funny. Readers enjoy his writing because if its humorous language. Following are the three main features of his writing style:The Humorous Language

O henry used colorful and rich language in his novels. He uses metaphor, irony, metonymy, paronomasia, and exaggeration to make his language appealing and rich. The use of these literary devices makes his writing humorous and amusing.

For example, in the novel The Cop and the Anthem, the readers can easily notice the humorous language. In the novel, he writes: Soapy walked past the policeman sadly. He seemeddoomed to liberty. It is obvious that doomed has a negative connotation is usually followed by negative words like death, destruction, and failure, etc. whereas, liberty has a positive connotation. This strange use of the word makes the language funny as no one considers liberty as a negative word but Soapy, who is poor and homeless. For Soapy, liberty is something which means hunger, coldness, and death. He wants to live in winter to spend his winters. By using humorous language, OHenry shows the miserable life of Soapy.

Another important characteristic of the writings of O Henry is the surprising and unexpected endings. Usually, the story starts in one course, and when the readers presume the ending, it unexpectedly turns to a different course. No matter if the surprise ending is sad, these are reasonable.

For example, in the short story The Gift of Magi, the narrator tells the importance of hair and the watch to the poor young couple.  The young couple does not waver in selling their most precious possessions to give each other Christmas gifts. Consequently, the gifts they bought for each other became useless by the end of the story; however, the most valuable things they have are not the material things but love. The readers are surprised at such endings. OHenry ends his stories and novel with such surprising endings.The Tearful Smile

Even though the plots of some of the stories and particularly the endings are gloomy and sad, the story also contains some hope, warmth, and true feelings. These things make the readers smile bitterly. The writing style with a blend of comedy and tragedy is called tearful smile.

The short story A Gift of Magi has a distinctive writing style: tearful smile. The poor couple in the story can only afford a flat at $8 per week. They have no money by one dollar and eighty-seven cents to exchange the Christmas gifts. The only one or two pennies they save is by flattening the vegetable man, butcher, and grocer. The miserable life of the poor couple is obvious to the readers and can be considered as tragic. But still, the couple has the atmosphere of comedy around them. Because of their understanding and love for each other, the miseries do not overwhelm them completely.

They are always thinking about one another and take care of each others happiness. Though at the end of the story, the gifts become useless, they both are moved by their love for each other. They have exchanged their precious processing with useless gifts; however, they still possess the most valuable thing in the world love. The ending of the story makes the readers confused. They do not know whether to smile or cry.

If the readers smile, it is accompanied by tears. Even if they cry, the tears are the happy tears. Though their most valuable processions are gone, there still is the true love which is still there. In other words, it is impossible for readers to respond to the writing style of OHenry in a typical way. The technique of tearful style is a magic style used by O Henry. Another example of this writing style is The Last Leaf by OHenry.

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