O. Henry American Literature Analysis
In the first decade of the twentieth century, O. Henry was the most popular short-story writer in the United States. By 1920, nearly five million copies of his books were sold in the United States. What was the secret of his success? Partially, it was the personality of the man whose voice was heard in the stories, a personality with which readers could identify and who spoke to some universal human need. Author William Saroyan once wrote that Americans loved O. Henry because “He was a nobody, but he was a nobody who was also a somebody, everybody’s somebody.” One of the underlying assumptions of O. Henry’s stories is that there is some order in the world, some poetic justice that follows a plan. Everything happens for a reason in an O. Henry story, and everything fits into the overall pattern. Furthermore, O. Henry exploits a universal romantic wish that people are basically good and unselfish and possess an inherent dignity.
O. Henry combines two different aspects of the short story that contributed to his success—the oral voice of the raconteur derived from frontier humorists and a highly patterned structure originated by Edgar Allan Poe. Combining the local color and melodrama of Bret Harte with the ironic reversals and empathy for ordinary people of Guy de Maupassant, O. Henry staked out his own territory of New York City and developed a storytelling voice more polished than the usual barroom wag who always seems to have one more tale to...
(The entire section is 2099 words.)
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