What is the setting at the beginning of "After Twenty Years?"Why didn't Officer Wells arrest Bob?

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting of "After Twenty Years" is a relatively quiet street in New York at around 10 at night. There is a wind and the threat of rain, so most of the people have hurried indoors, and the stores have long ago closed. The only lights are from cigar stores or lunch counters that are open all night. A man huddles in the door of a hardware store.

Officer Jimmy Wells goes by the darkened hardware store, where he is scheduled to meet his old friend Bob. He sees, from the light of Bob's cigar, that Bob is a man wanted by the police in Chicago. As Jimmy is a policeman, he needs to arrest Bob, but he can't bear to do it himself because he and Bob are old friends. He sends another police officer to arrest Bob instead. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This story begins on a street in New York City.  Bob is standing out in front of the place where his favorite restaurant used to be.  The name of the restaurant was "Big Joe Brady's."  It was torn down five years before the story starts.  The time is 10 PM and the weather is not good.  It is cold and windy and might be about to rain so there are very few people out on the streets.

Jimmy Wells can't bring himself to arrest Bob because they used to be such good friends.

mkcapen1 | Student

The story I believe that you are talking about is the one "After Twenty Years" by O'Henry.  It that takes place outside the doorway of a closed Hardware store.  It is on a city block that houses business that close early hours.  The wind is a little chilly.  The location is New York and at one time the store had been a restaurant.

The policeman does not arrest his friend because it has been many years since they were good friends that set off on their separate journeys.  There had been a genuine friendship and now it has been years and his friend has actually come back to meet him just as they had planned.  However, the policeman has chosen the path of an honest hardworking man while the man Bob chose to make his fortune through the criminal path. 

Although Jimmy  knows that he has to arrest the man and do the right thing, he feels like it can not be him who has to embarrass his friend by being the one to arrest him.