What evidence shows Bob and Jimmy Wells are proud of their accomplishments in "After Twenty Years" by O. Henry?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Through their movements and speech, people often convey their sense of self-confidence and accomplishment. This concept is true of both Jimmy Wells and 'Silky' Bob. 

In the exposition of O. Henry's "After Twenty Years," Jimmy Wells, who is the policeman walking his beat "impressively" in a section of New York, checks that doors are locked. As he continues, he twirls his club "with many artful movements." Confident in his profession, Jimmy is described by the narrator as making "a fine picture of a guardian of the peace."

A conscientious policeman, Jimmy recognizes 'Silky' Bob's face as that of a man wanted in Chicago. However, he does not display his recognition. Instead, Jimmy lets the other man explain why he waits in a darkened doorway on this policeman's beat. And, although he later writes to Bob that he does not have the heart to arrest his old friend, Jimmy demonstrates his wisdom and professionalism because as a beat policeman, he is not armed with a gun. So, it is probably better that he has a plain clothes officer make this arrest. 

When Jimmy approaches him, Bob does not recognize his old friend. He is friendly to the officer of the law and displays no nervousness as he explains why he stands in the darkened doorway. Proud that he has acquired wealth, Bob displays a "handsome watch, the lids of it set with small diamonds" as he checks the time. When the policeman asks Bob if he has done well out West, Bob proudly answers, "You bet!" He then boasts that he has competed with "some of the sharpest wits" so that he could amass his fortune. But, he adds, although Jimmy has always been "a good fellow," he considers his old friend a "plodder."

teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the story, Bob is dressed expensively. His necktie is decorated with a large jewel and his watch is encrusted with small jewels. When the police officer asks him whether he was successful in the West, Bob applies in the affirmative. He boasts that he had to fight for his success, implying that his accomplishments were hard-won. By his own words, Bob is proud of everything he has achieved.

Jimmy Wells appears to have been the first police officer to speak to Bob. From his letter at the end of the story, Jimmy admits he was on time to meet with Bob. After recognizing him as a wanted man, however, Jimmy couldn't bring himself to arrest his old friend. He sent a plainclothes officer instead. Jimmy Wells is said to have looked 'strong and important' at the beginning of the story. He moves confidently and is a "fine-looking cop." From the description of the way Jimmy carries himself, we get the idea he is proud to be a police officer trusted to guard the peace in New York City.

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After Twenty Years

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