After Twenty Years Questions and Answers
by O. Henry

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What is the style in O'Henry's "After Twenty Years"?

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The style O. Henry uses in "After Twenty Years" creates an almost cinematic feel via its use of a detached narrator. The story is mostly dialogue, and the slight amount of narration there is could almost be read as the stage directions in the script for a play or movie. Indeed, the only significant narration occurs in the first three paragraphs as the approach of Patrolman Wells to Bob is described, and then as Bob waits for his friend to appear after the policeman leaves. One could easily imagine the story as a one-act play or a short film.

The use of a detached narrator allows O. Henry to accomplish his surprise ending. The narrator cannot give away any details about the inner feelings or thoughts of either Bob or Jimmy. If he did, the fact that Bob is a wanted criminal and/or that Jimmy recognizes his friend from the beginning would be revealed, spoiling the surprise. Thus the narration reads like stage directions, simply describing the outward appearance of the scene...

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