After Twenty Years

by O. Henry
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How does the note provide the resolution to the story?

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In “After Twenty Years ,” the note provides an ironic and wistful resolution to the other story of the two men’s longtime relationship. While waiting for his friend Jimmy Wells, Bob tells a passing cop that he looks forward to reuniting with Jimmy after twenty years. Bob describes Jimmy...

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In “After Twenty Years,” the note provides an ironic and wistful resolution to the other story of the two men’s longtime relationship. While waiting for his friend Jimmy Wells, Bob tells a passing cop that he looks forward to reuniting with Jimmy after twenty years. Bob describes Jimmy as

My best friend and the best fellow in the world. He and I grew up together here in New York, like two brothers.

Bob obviously loves and trusts his childhood buddy; despite having to travel from out West to return to this meeting spot in New York, Bob would not miss seeing his old pal for the world. He is confident that Jimmy also will not miss their reunion.

I know that Jimmy will meet me here if he can. He was as true as any man in the world. He’ll never forget. I came a thousand miles to stand here tonight. But I’ll be glad about that, if my old friend comes too.

Yet the ending note is completely unexpected; it reveals that the cop who briefly speaks with Bob is indeed Jimmy Wells; he just does not divulge his identity. Unable to bring himself to arrest his old pal, however, Jimmy instead sends another undercover cop to meet and apprehend Bob. The undercover cop gives Bob this note from Jimmy:

I was at the place on time. I saw the face of the man wanted by Chicago cops. I didn’t want to arrest you myself. So I went and got another cop and sent him to do the job.

His message conveys a wistful note; obviously Jimmy still feels some sentiment for Bob (even though his friend is a wanted criminal) and cannot take Bob into custody himself. Their mutual feelings of brotherhood and comradery have endured their twenty-year separation. Jimmy indeed remains true to his word that he will meet Bob, but he is faithful to the law as well.

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