In After Twenty Years, there are only three characters that are found within the entire story. These characters, although each characterised significantly different, all play a vital role within the reading of the text. The characters also develop and change as the story progresses, which gives strong representations of each character and their identities.
The main character and protagonist is Bob, as the story is centred around him waiting for his old friend to meet him at their chosen time and place. Although he is represented briefly by his appearance, it is the small descriptions described that are of importance in his characterisation, in addition to his personality that is expressed throughout the story. We learn of Bob’s loyalty to his friends and that he is wealthy, supposedly from hard work. In this way, Bob is a round character, as he is complex and immediately capable of change. As the story progresses, Bobs identity is exposed even more when the climax of the story is revealed. It is immediately presumed that Bob is a successful career driven man when he tells the police officer “I’ve had to compete with some of the sharpest wits going to get my pile.” However, in the turn of events, Bobs character is identified as actually being a wanted criminal in Chicago by the same of ‘Silky’ Bob.
The second character, the policeman, who also turns out to be Jimmy Wells, is in this sense seen as a protagonist, as the story is centred around Bob and his best friend Jimmy. Throughout the story, it is led to believe that the police officer is nothing more than an antagonist within the story, as he walks off to leave Bob waiting for his friend. The characters identity in the story is shown when it is seen that he is in fact, represented as two different people, as he is the friend Jimmy who also happens to be a policeman. The character of the policeman is represented briefly in his appearance, and although he does not express much personality, we learn of this side of him from Bob as his dear friend Jimmy.
“But I know Jimmy will meet me here if he’s alive, for he always was the truest, stanchest old chap in the world. He’ll never forget. I came a thousand miles to stand in this door to-night, and it’s worth it if my old partner turns up…. He was a kind of plodder, though, good fellow as he was.”
Jimmy’s character is expressed through the dialogue of Bob, and it is the convergence of both characters in the end that also show him to be a round character. This turn of events also outlines Jimmy’s dedication to the police force, which he regards as more important than his loyalty to his friend. Although his old friend had traveled far to meet him twenty years later, he had to do what was right and arrest him for the criminal he was.
The third and final character in the story is an antagonist, and is only described as ‘a tall man in a long overcoat.’ This brief representation describes this character not in personality but only in appearance by his height and attire. Although the tall man is a flat character and has very little depth, he still plays a vital role in the story and the climax of the plot. He therefore is just as vital for this fictional story as the other two rounded protagonists.