Beginning and Ending

after-twenty-years-ohenryThe beginning and middle of the story are written using specific techniques to ensure the reader will continue reading. Although the story starts out quite simple, and continues with very little conflict and arising action, there are immediate questions being asked about who the policeman is and how he is going to be a part of the story. Certain information is withheld what Bob’s occupation is that has made him a lot of money in the west. Curiosity is aroused when Bob is introduced, and readers begin to wonder if his old friend Jimmy will show up to meet his loyal friend.

The ending or climax of a story is what is considered the most important piece, and without it, there would ultimately be no closure or meaning from the text. In After Twenty Years, the ending is particularly important, as it has a surprise twist and unifies the plot to an absolution. The ending is something that isn’t entirely predictable, which gives a dramatic ending to the story and gives closure to the reader. This can be seen when Jimmy identifies himself as the policeman, not the tall man readers were originally led to believe.

“We cannot of course be denied an end: it is one of the great charms of books that they have to end. But unless we are extremely naïve….we do not ask that they progress towards that end precisely as we have been given to believe.” – Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending

There is evidence of irony used within the story as well, as the actions made by Jimmy for a good moral reason led to undesirable outcomes for his friend Bob. It is assumed that Bob was a good person based from his loyalty to his friend, as he was waiting after twenty years having traveled miles to see him. Ironically, his friend is there yet places him under arrest because he is actually a criminal on the run from the law. This irony adds to the twist in the story, and helps with the surprise, as readers are led to believe Bob isn’t what he turns out to be.

The characters are integral to the ending of the story, outlining why such strong characterisaton is used within After Twenty Years. The twist in particular, which is usually difficult to execute, is represented when the policeman falsely portrays certain traits and aims to divert attention from his real identity of Jimmy or Bob’s best friend, as well as his purpose to arrest Bob at the end of the story. This outlines that the characters were specific to the dramatic ending and their identities were purposely executed by the writer O’Henry.

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