Did Officer Wells do the right thing?

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In O. Henry's short story "After Twenty Years ," Jimmy Wells is a police officer who makes a difficult but correct decision. Twenty years previous to the action of the story, Wells and a friend agreed to meet each other at a certain spot twenty years later. Wells...

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In O. Henry's short story "After Twenty Years," Jimmy Wells is a police officer who makes a difficult but correct decision. Twenty years previous to the action of the story, Wells and a friend agreed to meet each other at a certain spot twenty years later. Wells meets the man, but since they meet outside, at night, in the dark, neither man can see the other clearly; however, when the waiting man strikes a match, Wells can see that his face is the face of a notorious criminal he has seen on wanted posters. Wells doesn't reveal his own identity but sends a plain-clothes police officer to first pretend to be himself, then arrest the waiting man, and then give him a note. In the note Officer Wells reveals he was there at the appointed time but could not bring himself to arrest the childhood friend himself. Officer Wells' decision was correct. He kept the pact he made with his friend. If he had started reminiscing about their old friendship with the criminal, Wells may have been tempted to allow the man to escape--for old time's sake. To avoid temptation, he asks another man from the police department to go and pretend to be Wells to make the arrest of the criminal easier. This was the most questionable action Wells took, yet it is consistent with undercover work that police detectives engage in frequently, and most people don't consider such actions to be lying--they are more like acting. To make sure his childhood friend knew that he had kept the pact, Wells sends a note via the arresting officer honestly explaining that he was there but that he couldn't bring himself to arrest the man himself. This showed integrity on Wells' part; his friend would not be able to accuse him of standing him up, and he might even appreciate the fact that, because of their past relationship, Wells hadn't wanted to personally arrest him. Wells enforced the law, acted with integrity, protected himself from temptation, and considered the feelings of his friend in the process. So, yes, he did the right thing. 

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