The Use Of Dialogue And Irony In After Twenty Years By O. Henry

True friendships are one of the most valued bonds between two people in today’s time. A real friendship between two people includes reliability, trust, laughter, and good memories. The story, “After Twenty Years”, takes place in front of a hardware store on a dark street around 10:00 p.m. where a friend (Bob) is waiting for an “appointment” made twenty years ago. However, the appointment didn’t quite go as expected. The author, O. Henry, uses dialogue, situational irony and dramatic irony to convey the unpredictable climax of the story, “After Twenty Years.”

The author O. Henry uses dialogue to advance the story, but also creates an unpredictable outcome. The two characters exchange in conversation about their successes in the past twenty years, one mentioning that he (Bob) “Did pretty well out West…” after taking out a “handsome watch...set with diamonds.” The conversation comes to an end shortly after, and the policeman walks away wishing the other man luck with the “appointment” he has been awaiting. Later on in the story the other friend, Jimmy, finally makes it to the hardware store where Bob has been waiting. They begin to catch up while walking down the street, their conversation is similar to the previous one with the police officer. Jimmy states that he has “a position in one of the city departments” there in New York. While, Bob begins to tell Jimmy about the success he encountered out in the West. After awhile of walking, a light from a drugstore allows them to “gaze upon the other’s face”. Bob quickly realizes that “Jimmy” is not Jimmy, but a bystander. The bystander was there in place of the real Jimmy to arrest Bob for being the most wanted man in Chicago. After Bob was told he was under arrest the bystander gave him a note from Jimmy saying “Bob: I was at the appointed place on time. When you struck the match...I saw it was the face of the man wanted in Chicago…” The ending dialogue the author gives the information that Jimmy was at the appointment on time, which allows the reader to piece together the policeman was in fact Jimmy.

O. Henry also uses situational irony in the story. The main situational irony in the story is the fact that Bob was talking to Jimmy but didn't realize it. Bob even says “If Jimmy is alive on earth he’ll be here by that time,” not connecting that Jimmy is the officer. Another example of situational irony in this story is “the man who had come a thousand miles to fill an appointment,” traveled a thousand miles just to get arrested. Also when the bystander impersonating Jimmy shows up, Bob “with his egotism enlarged by success” begins to tell “Jimmy” all about his time in the west. Bob doesn’t realize that he is “beginning to outline the history of his career” to a police officer that is about to arrest him.

The author, O. Henry, incorporates dramatic irony in the story as well as situational irony. As the story carries on the readers can pick up on some clues the author incorporates into the story like “Jimmy will meet here...he was the truest, stanchest old chap in the world,” giving the reader a hint toward the officer being Jimmy. He (the author) also hints at the criminal history of Bob. With lines saying “I’ve had to compete with some of the sharpest wits going to get my pile,” or even simply Bob pulling out a “handsome watch...set with diamonds,” all hint to his criminal history.

The author uses a friendship background to get people to relate to the story but then puts his own twist on the conclusion of the story. Known for his surprise endings, O. Henry does not fall short of those expectations in his story “After twenty years”. Using character dialogue, situational irony and dramatic irony in his story the author catches the reader's off guard to make an incredible story, leaving the readers wanting more. 

09 March 2021
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