How can you write an extrapolation in Jimmy Wells' point of view in the form of a diary entry from "After Twenty Years" by O. Henry?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to extrapolate the feelings of Jimmy Wells, the reader can review what 'Silky' Bob has said of Jimmy, as well as what Jimmy himself has written to 'Silky' Bob; then, the student can compose the diary entry based upon the feelings of each man for the other.

Here are the characteristics of Jimmy:

  • A true friend who keeps his promises.
  • He loves New York and does not want to leave it.
  • He is honest and forthright.
  • He is sentimental

Here is what Bob has said of Jimmy that Jimmy has heard while standing in the doorway of the former restaurant:

  • He is a loyal, reliable friend.
  • He is a plodder. Bob considers Jimmy a plodder because he does not take risks, instead following the rules. (This difference between what the two men value is probably why they have parted.) 
  • Jimmy has not wanted to leave New York and find adventure.

Here is what Jimmy has communicated to Bob in his note:

  • He does not have the heart to embarrass Bob by making the arrest himself.
  • He cares enough to write Bob.

With these feelings and characteristics in mind, the student can compose a diary entry that will be in concert with Jimmy's personality. For instance, Jimmy probably bemoans more than anything that he is responsible for 'Silky' Bob's return to New York. He might wish that Bob were arrested in Chicago and then he would not have had to deal with what he feels is a betrayal of his old friend. After all, Jimmy seems very saddened that his old friend turned out to be on the other side of the law than he is on. He may also recall all the conversations and good times at the restaurant. Most of all, he may recall what Bob has said of him this fatal night:

"I hope Jimmy has done half as well...I had to compete with some of the sharpest wits to get my pile. A man gets in a groove in New York. It takes the West to put a razor-edge on him." 

This statement by Bob may well upset Jimmy as he realizes that his old friend is not sorry for anything he has done.


In order to begin the diary entry, the student can look at the style of Jimmy's writing at the end of the story, when the letter he has written is revealed, and imitate this style. Here is a suggestion for a starting sentence:

                                                 (Put the date)

This was one of the toughest days of my life!  I can't believe I was part of the arrest of my old friend that I had really looked forward to seeing again for so long.  

Perhaps, the student could add why Jimmy feels this way; perhaps, too, Jimmy could reminisce about some of the things he and Bob did when young, how he lost touch with Bob, what made him be a policeman, how he feels about being one now, and how he hates to think of Bob going to prison, etc.)

Read the study guide:
After Twenty Years

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