Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In addition to the enjoyment he takes in the series of adventures that Henry encounters, Mark Twain presents the characteristics needed to be successful in America. As he did earlier in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), Twain shows that an American needs wit and practical intelligence, a sense of fairness and honesty, a clean reputation, patience, and self-discipline. Henry has all these qualities and more. His wit and intelligence allow him to seize the opportunities that come his way. Furthermore, his self-discipline allows him to keep his desires in check. Henry does not spend wildly when he uses the bank note for credit. Instead, he keeps careful watch over his expenses, allowing himself to owe no more than what he can repay within two years on the salary that he expects to make in his new job.

Henry also has a sense of responsibility and a concern for the well-being of others. He honestly would like to help Lloyd Hastings out of his predicament; indeed, it is his desire to help Lloyd that gives him the idea that makes both of them millionaires. In addition, Henry repays Harris for being the first to honor his credit by making Harris’s restaurant famous throughout London. Finally, Henry is capable of love and even of gallantry for Portia Langham. Twain demonstrates that people such as Henry make their own breaks, and because of their strong character perhaps they deserve these breaks.