Imagine you are Jimmy in "After Twenty Years." Make a diary entry of your feelings at the thought of meeting your friend after twenty years, your excitement about the meeting and your pain at finding out that he is a criminal. Also write how you got him arrested.
In the composition of a diary entry for Jimmy, the student will try to enter into the psyche of Jimmy. From the ending of O. Henry's story in which Jimmy writes to Bob, explaining why he has not met him, it is clear that Jimmy still feels deeply about his old friend. In the exposition, too, as Jimmy the policeman walks his beat, he "cast[s] his watchful eye adown the pacific thoroughfare" as he does his job, of course, but, perhaps, also as he anticipates meeting his old friend. It is, then, this same "watchful eye" that probably detects immediately something in Bob's face that keeps him from identifying himself when his old friend quickly explains his presence in the doorway of the hardware store which was formerly a restaurant. After Bob lights the cigar, however, Jimmy becomes certain that the friend of his youth is "Silky Bob," a wanted man. The fact that he policeman "twirled his club and took a step or two" indicates Jimmy's deliberation and inner conflict about identifying himself and arresting Bob.
Therefore, in composing a diary entry, the student may consider these points:
- As he walks his beat "twirling his club with many intricate and artful movements," it is apparent that Jimmy eagerly anticipates his reunion with his old friend, although since he is on the job, he must meet Bob in his uniform.
- When he slows down on one block, he is obviously trying to see if his old friend has arrived yet, but because the doorway is dark, Jimmy cannot identify the man. Besides, it has been twenty years since he has seen the friend of his youth. So, being a policeman, he approaches this man carefully.
- Before Jimmy can say anything, the man in the doorway speaks and does not allow the policemen a chance to interject anything.
- Even though it is dark, Jimmy's eyes have adjusted and he probably is able to recognize something in Bob's face that prevents him from identifying himself, especially since he has been informed at work about "Silky Bob's" being on the Wanted List and having seen a poster with this man's face on it.
- When Bob pulls out his diamond watch and then lights his cigar, Jimmy is certain of Bob's identity. At this point, he is probably heartbroken that his old friend is now a criminal for two reasons: first of all, he is disappointed that Bob has turned to crime, and secondly, he knows he cannot fraternize with him at all. Were he a regular citizen, he may have not even known that Bob is a wanted man; even so, he could talk with him and dine with him one last night and then bid him good-bye. (This is the conflict that can become a big part of the diary entry as the student can write about Jimmy's mixed feelings here)
- Disturbed emotionally by his identification of Bob, Jimmy says only, "Hope your friend comes around all right. Going to call time on him sharp?" When Bob says he will wait thirty minutes, Jimmy knows he has time to return to the police station.
- At the police station, he arranges for a plainclothesman to arrest his old friend because he does not have the heart to do so himself. Instead, he writes to his friend, explaining the situation; he gives this letter to the other policeman.
- The remainder of the diary entry, then, can reflect Jimmy's grief and regret that Bob will go to prison. In his reflection, he probably reminisces about the good times that he and Bob shared as youths.