O.Henry – The master short-story-teller

O.Henry – The master short-story-teller

O.Henry 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. 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, which was full of ups and downs, 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. Like many other writers, his early career options were unfocused and 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. He was quite careless with his book keeping and was not only fired by the bank but also charged with embezzlement. 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’s stories are playful, known for their witty narration and are mostly endowed with plot twist endings. 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”. This story talks about a young couple and how they deal with the challenges of buying secret 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), Letters to Lithopolis and two collections of his early work on the Houston Post ( Post scripts and O.Henry Encore) were published. 

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