The primary theme of O. Henry's story “The Furnished Room ” is emptiness that leads to despair. The author expresses this theme through the setting, characters, and plot of the story. First, the story's initial setting is a row of tired red brick houses on the lower West...
The primary theme of O. Henry's story “The Furnished Room” is emptiness that leads to despair. The author expresses this theme through the setting, characters, and plot of the story. First, the story's initial setting is a row of tired red brick houses on the lower West Side. These houses have all seen better days, and they are now turned into furnished rooms that are never home to anyone. These places used to be mansions, but they are crumbling now, ready perhaps to fall down before much more time has passed.
The story then moves into the furnished room. It, too, has seen better days, and it has no personality of its own, for it is merely a mishmash of items from a number of people who have now moved on. Everything is threadbare and old, decaying and worn. There is no warmth or cheerfulness, no welcoming air. There is nothing but dull emptiness.
The characters, too, are rather empty. The protagonist who rents the room is in search of his lost love, but no matter how hard he searches and how many places he looks, he cannot find her. In this furnished room, though, he catches the scent of her perfume. He knows she has been there, even though the housekeeper does not mention her. Yet he fails to find evidence of her presence other than that mysterious scent. Without his beloved, this young man is empty and worn, and now he realizes what has probably happened, and he despairs. He stuffs torn up sheets in every crack and turns up the gas. He no longer wants to live.
Here the story reaches its climax, but as the plot resolves, we learn what has happened to Eloise Vashner, the young lady the protagonist seeks. The housekeeper and a friend are discussing how a young lady committed suicide in the very furnished room the young man has just rented. This young lady, we discover, fits the description of Eloise Vashner. She, too, has lost her battle with emptiness and fell into despair.