An Unfinished Story by O. HenryHas anyone else read this and can you please tell me your opinion of this story?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a classic O. Henry story replete with irony and typical O. Henry's wry humor. Just when Soapy decides to reform his dissolute life and get a job, he finally gets what he has tried for but now does not desire:  He is arrested! While O. Henry has fun with this narrative, there is a good point here.  One should not waste one's life because if one does decide to reform oneself, it may be too late.

O. Henry's mention of "Primal Energy" for God is just a facetious remark which is suggestive of what Soapy may be thinking in his dissolute condition. 

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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What are you asking about the story?  First impressions?

My first impression of the story is that it has something of a paternalistic message.  It seems to be saying that one of the worst thing that someone can do is to take sexual advantage of a poor woman.  This seems like something of an antiquated idea--it implies that women are prey for predatory men and that men who use the poverty of women to exploit them are the worst sort of person.

If you want other sorts of discussion, please clarify your question.

vastlyamused's profile pic

vastlyamused | (Level 1) eNoter

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What are you asking about the story?  First impressions?

My first impression of the story is that it has something of a paternalistic message.  It seems to be saying that one of the worst thing that someone can do is to take sexual advantage of a poor woman.  This seems like something of an antiquated idea--it implies that women are prey for predatory men and that men who use the poverty of women to exploit them are the worst sort of person.

If you want other sorts of discussion, please clarify your question.

Thanks for that quick response. I think what I was looking for was O. Henry's purpose in writing the story,which you actually answered already, thank you!

Do you think he had any other purposes or could anyone else suggest what they think the purpose might have been?

Also, what do you think he was trying to illustrate by referring to God as "radium or ether" etc or as "Primal Energy"?

In response to your question " Also, what do you think he was trying to illustrate by referring to God as "radium or ether" etc or as "Primal Energy"?

Again, it is helpful if you consider the time in which O. Henry wrote; "Mainstream" religion was, in an attempt to reconcile Christian doctrine with science, moving away from what we now call fundamentalism to a more secular view of the tenets of the Christian creed. If you're interested, read Theodore Roosevelt's "The Search for Truth in a Reverent Spirit". It should help explain that issue

vastlyamused's profile pic

vastlyamused | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

An Unfinished Story by O. Henry

Has anyone else read this and can you please tell me your opinion of this story?

My impression of the story is rather different: O. Henry is commenting not only on those men who prey upon young women who were in socially and economically challenging situations ("shop girls" were poorly paid, and frequentally considered to be sexually available by virtue of their employment), but in a larger sense on the "respectable" businessmen who in order to maximize profits exploited these young women, paying them a barely subsistence wage.Recall Henry's description of her life-- she can afford few, if any, pleasures, and hovers on the edge of hunger. Her wages barely keep her alive.

It is helpful when considering Henry's intent to consider the time in which he wrote- women were not allowed to vote, few, if any, laws protected labor, there were few unions and their power was extremely limited. Trusts, Big Business, openly controlled many politicans. Consider carefully the opening and most especially the closing paragraphs of the story:

"As I said before, I dreamed that I was standing near a crowd of prosperous-looking angels, and a policeman took me by the wing and asked if I belonged with them.

"Who are they?" I asked.

"Why," said he, "they are the men who hired working-girls, and paid 'em five or six dollars a week to live on. Are you one of the bunch?"

"Not on your immortality," said I. "I'm only the fellow that set fire to an orphan asylum, and murdered a blind man for his pennies."

 

calgary-gal's profile pic

calgary-gal | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

What are you asking about the story?  First impressions?

My first impression of the story is that it has something of a paternalistic message.  It seems to be saying that one of the worst thing that someone can do is to take sexual advantage of a poor woman.  This seems like something of an antiquated idea--it implies that women are prey for predatory men and that men who use the poverty of women to exploit them are the worst sort of person.

If you want other sorts of discussion, please clarify your question.

Thanks for that quick response. I think what I was looking for was O. Henry's purpose in writing the story,which you actually answered already, thank you!

Do you think he had any other purposes or could anyone else suggest what they think the purpose might have been?

Also, what do you think he was trying to illustrate by referring to God as "radium or ether" etc or as "Primal Energy"?

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