O.Henry – The master short-story-teller

O.Henry – The master short-story-teller


O.Henry – The master short story teller is, beyond any shadow of doubt, one of the most popular writers of short stories in English. He was an American short story author whose real name was William Sydney Porter. However , His stories express the effect of coincidence on character through humour, grim or irony and often have surprise endings, a device that has become almost identical with his name.

His rich canon of work reflects his wide range of experience and is distinctive for its witticism and clever wordplay. Another writing style of his novel is tearful smile and it is the combination of comedy and tragedy. His tales romanticize the commonplace; in particular, the life of ordinary people in New York city.  His ironic writing style can be described as subtle yet surprising . Since the irony usually happens at the end and all at once. His own life,, had a major impact on his point of view and adding to the morality truth of his stories.


William Sydney Porter was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1862. He graduated from an elementary school in 1876. Career was unfocused , he wandered across various professions, before he found his calling as a short story writer. He started working in his uncle’s drug store and became a licensed pharmacist by the age of 19. He started sketching at this time. In 1882 he moved to Texas and took up residence on a sheep ranch. There he learned Shepherding, cooking, baby sitting and a little bit of Spanish and German, too. He had an active social life in Austin and was a fine musician, skilled with guitar and mandolin.

Over the next several years, he shifted from one job to another like drafting, journalism and banking. However, banking in particular was not his calling. Later, he fled to Honduras and wrote his first collection of short stories ” Cabbages and Kings”. After his first wife’s death, he was sentenced and served in Federal prison in Ohio for five years. Ha had fourteen stories published under various pseudonyms, while he was in prison but was gaining popularity as O.Henry. O.Henry’s most prolific writing period started in 1902, when he moved to the city of New York. While there, he wrote 381 short stories. O.Henry – The master short story teller is better known with his pen name .


Most of his stories are set in his own time, the early 20th century. Many of them take place in New York city and often feature characters with blue-collar jobs. He has explored various subjects, with his characters roaming the cattle-lands of Texas, exploring the art of the con man or exploring the tensions of class and wealth and others.

“Cabbages and Kings ” is his foremost collection of short stories which is followed by “The Four Million”. One of the most famous short stories of the author is definitely “The Gift of the Magi”. It is about a young couple and the challenges of buying Christmas gifts for each other, with very little money. It has been adapted multiple times into films, drama, Broadway drama, radio musical, television series and others.

Some of his other most famous works include ” The Ransom of the Red Chief” “The Cop and the Anthem”, “The Last Leaf”, “The duplicity of Hargrover”, “After Twenty Years “, “Hearts and Hands”, “The Prisoner of Zembla” and others. All of O.Henry’s stories are highly entertaining, whether read for pleasure or studied in classrooms around the world. After his death three collected volumes appeared – ” Sixes and Sevens”, “Rolling Stones” and “Waifs and Strays”. Later, Seven Fugitive stories and poems  ( O.Henryana) .

The Final Cut

While in prison he began writing short stories in order to support his young daughter Margaret. His first published story was “Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking” (1899). He used a pseudonym, Olivier Henry, only once and changed his pen name to O. Henry, not wanting his readers to know he was in jail. He published 12 stories while in prison. After serving 3 years of the five-year sentence, he was released for good behavior. He moved to New York City in 1902 and wrote a story a week for the New York World .”The Ransom of Red Chief” (1910), is the best known work. Among its film adaptations are Ruthless People (1986) with Danny DeVito and Bette MidlerThe Ransom of Red Chief (1998), The Ransom of Red Chief (1911) and Business People (1963) (aka “Business People”) by director Leonid Gaidai, starring Georgiy Vitsin and Yuriy Nikulin




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