What kinds of characters does the story "After Twenty Years" have?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First, there is a cop that remains unnamed until the end of the story. He is described as "a fine-looking cop, watchful, guarding the peace."

Other than this, we do not learn too much information about the cop in the story. The officer comes across another man:

The man near the door had a colorless square face with bright eyes, and a little white mark near his right eye. He had a large jewel in his necktie.

This other man (Bob) claims to be waiting for a friend that he last saw 20 years ago. Since most of the story focuses on Bob's life, he is considered the protagonist of the story. He explains that he met his best friend, Jimmy Wells, twenty years before at a restaurant known as "Big Joe Brady's Restaurant." On that night they parted ways so that they could make their own life decisions. They agreed that they would meet back twenty years later. He was successful in the west, and he explains that he hopes his friend, Jimmy, was successful, too.

Bob is very persistent. He stays, despite the cold rain and yucky weather, to meet his friend. The cop asks if he will leave at 10 (the time he expected to meet with his friend) if Jimmy does not show up. Bob says he will not leave:

I’ll wait half an hour, at least. If Jimmy is alive on earth, he’ll be here by that time. Good night, officer.

This shows that Bob and Jimmy were once very close friends even though they have not seen each other often over the years. Another man, who claims to be Jimmy, approaches Bob. He immediately notices that Jimmy looks taller than he was when he last saw him. He also notices that his nose is of a different shape:

Twenty years is a long time, but not long enough to change the shape of a man’s nose.

This man, it turns out, is not Jimmy. He does, however, know Jimmy, and he gives Bob a very important note from Jimmy that greatly impacts Bob's life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The two main characters in "After Twenty Years" are Jimmy Wells and Bob. The author probably gives the reader Jimmy's last name to make his character more of an identifiable aspect to his character. Bob's last name is not given, which lends a bit more mystery to this mysterious character.

Jimmy (as the story unfolds) has gone on to a career as a police officer. This fact is purposely withheld from the reader. Both men had been friends many years earlier. At that time, they had determined to meet up twenty years later to see how their lives had turned out. When we discover the answer to this question, we can ascertain that the the character of Bob might be described as "round," in that he had changed "After Twenty Years." Jimmy's character, meanwhile, might be described as "static," as he remained essentially the same as Bob had known him so many years ago.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial