After Twenty Years

by O. Henry
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If you had been in Jimmy's place in "After Twenty Years," how would you have dealt with your feelings about your old friend on one hand and your sense of duty on other?

One could argue that most people in Jimmy's place would've dealt with their feelings in the exact same way that Jimmy does in "After Twenty Years." That is to say, they would've done their job and had their friend arrested. Ultimately, one could say that this is the right thing to do because criminals need to be off the streets.

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There's no sense that Jimmy Wells hesitates in any way to do his duty as a police officer. As soon as he sees his old friend "Silky" Bob waiting outside what used to be Big Joe Brady's restaurant, he knows that he's the man he's been waiting for. His colleagues...

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There's no sense that Jimmy Wells hesitates in any way to do his duty as a police officer. As soon as he sees his old friend "Silky" Bob waiting outside what used to be Big Joe Brady's restaurant, he knows that he's the man he's been waiting for. His colleagues in the NYPD have been looking to arrest Bob for quite some time, and tonight's the night they're finally going to do it. Jimmy will play his part in the arrest, putting the finger on him before an arresting officer can swoop into action.

At the same time, Jimmy can't pretend that Bob's no longer a friend. That's why he doesn't make the arrest himself. His feelings of friendship for his old pal, however, are ultimately outweighed by his sense of duty to the uniform. It's fair to say that most people in Jimmy's position would act the same way.

As well as the issue of right and wrong—which is to say it's surely wrong to allow a criminal to get away with his crimes—letting Bob get away could possibly have led to Jimmy getting into serious trouble. At the very least he'd be kicked off the force; at worst, he might even get arrested himself, and then where would he be?

From whichever angle one approaches the question, then, there seems little doubt that, for all kinds of good reasons, Jimmy did the right thing in turning in his old pal "Silky" Bob.

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