How are "Silky" Bob and Jimmy Wells described in "After Twenty Years"?

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"Silky" Bob is described as a pale man who has "square-jawed face with keen eyes." His most notable features are a white scar by his eyebrow and the diamond scarf pin he wears, which is large and "oddly set." He smokes a cigar. He comes across as well-to-do and flamboyant because of his cigar and diamond (and perhaps a bit déclassé to be flaunting his wealth with a large jewel).

We don't get much precise physical description of Jimmy Wells as that would ruin the "twist" of the story, but we see him walking up and down his beat, twirling his baton. He is alert with a "watchful eye" and obviously does a good job policing—as his area is peaceful. We are told that he is "a fine picture of a guardian of the peace." At the end of the story, we learn he has a pug nose.

The description of each character fits the different directions they have gone in life: Bob displays the all the signs of a risk-taking, flamboyant criminal while Jimmy shows the steadiness and ordinary appearance of a man faithfully doing his job.

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The classic short story "After Twenty Years" tells of two friends, Jimmy Wells and Bob, who arrange to meet in front of a restaurant they used to frequent together after being separated for 20 years. Jimmy Wells, who has since become a policeman, strolls up and talks to the waiting Bob, who does not recognize him. He then leaves, and someone else approaches and introduces himself as Jimmy Wells. When they come into the light, though, Bob realizes that it is not Jimmy. As the policeman arrests Bob, he hands him a note from Jimmy, who was the first policeman that Bob had talked to earlier.

Jimmy Wells, the policeman, is described as "a fine-looking cop," who appears "strong and important." That's all the description that is given of Jimmy Wells, possibly because the surprise ending of the story hinges on the fact that Bob doesn't realize the deception at first, and O. Henry doesn't want to draw attention to Wells's appearance.

Bob, however, is described in more detail. O. Henry writes that he has a "colorless square face with bright eyes," and that near his right eye is a little white mark. Bob wears a large jewel in his necktie and carries an expensive watch covered in small jewels. The reader also understands through the dialog that Bob is a criminal who is important enough to be wanted in several states.

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O. Henry's description of Bob's face by the light of his match has a double purpose. First, it is necessary to enable Jimmy to recognize Bob as the man who is wanted by the Chicago police. Second, it gives the author an opportunity to tell the reader what Bob looks like. We must remember that both these men have changed a lot over the past twenty years. They are not a couple of kids talking to each other, but men who are both approaching middle age and who have acquired great stores of "street smarts" in their respective vocations. They are two mature men standing in the same spot where they said goodbye as mere boys twenty years before. The "white scar" near Bob's right eyebrow serves a dual purpose as well. It helps Jimmy to identify him as the wanted man, and it suggests that Bob is a tough customer who has been in fights during his years in the West.

O. Henry's description of Jimmy's manner of patrolling his beat is largely intended to show that he has been a cop for a long time. This fact has had an indelible effect on him. He has become a cop through and through, a man who is dedicated to upholding the law. The reader will not discover until the end of the story that the policeman is in fact Jimmy Wells, but the reader will have formed a strong impression of Jimmy by that time and will understand why he found it impossible to let his old friend Bob escape from the long arm of the law. We do not know exactly how long Jimmy has been a cop, but it could have been almost twenty years. He was twenty years old when he and Bob said goodbye in "Big Joe" Brady's restaurant. That would be about the age when he would be thinking about finding good steady employment. O. Henry's description of the policeman in the opening paragraphs suggests a man who has had many years of police work and is thoroughly set in his ways as well as content in his role and duties as a uniformed cop.

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