Discuss the theme of coincidence in "The Furnished Room."

In "The Furnished Room," coincidence seemingly causes the narrator to rent the same room as his lost sweetheart a week after she commits suicide there. Not knowing she has done so, the narrator also commits suicide in the same room. The story thus invites the reader to explore the theme of coincidence, asking us to weigh our tendency to construct meaning against what may be random incidences.

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A young man has been seeking all over New York City for his lost sweetheart, Miss Eloise Vashner, moving from boardinghouse to boardinghouse in the theater district, looking for her.

By coincidence, he ends up renting the same room that she had had the week before. Moreover, he is sure she stayed there, because he smells the scent she always wore, mignonette. However, he can find no physical trace of her. When he questions the landlady, even giving a description of Eloise and her distinctive mole, the landlady denies she ever rented the room.

We find out, although the young man does not, that the landlady is lying. She doesn't want the young man to know Eloise committed suicide in that room the week before, as she fears the news spreading would be bad for business.

However, in a second coincidence, the young man also commits suicide in the very same room.

O. Henry leaves us to interpret what is going on. The two coincidences raise the thematic question of whether they really were coincidences or fated to be. Did the likenesses in personality that once drew the two lovers together draw them to the same room and the same decision? Are they dramatic types prone to extreme gestures? Or did a supernatural link draw them to the same destiny? O. Henry deliberately leaves the ending ambiguous. What we decide might tell us more about ourselves and our own longing for meaning than what really happened to these characters. O. Henry is saying that we can never know in these cases what is coincidence and what is fate—but the easiest answer, if less romantic answer, is coincidence.

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