After Twenty Years

by O. Henry

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What is special about the appointment between two friends in "After Twenty Years"?

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The appointment of the two friends in "After Twenty Years" is special in that it fulfills a solemn promise made by the men some two decades before. When Bob headed out West, he and his childhood friend Jimmy vowed that they would meet up again in New York outside Big Joe Brady's restaurant in exactly twenty years to the day. It's impressive that friends who had been apart for so long would honor their commitment.

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The appointment in O. Henry's "After Twenty Years" is a prearranged meeting between two friends who parted one night and agreed to meet again two decades later at 'Big Joe' Brady's restaurant. One of the friends remained in New York City; the other headed out West.

As he awaits his old friend, the man from the West who stands in the empty doorway of the restaurant that closed years ago tells the policeman on the beat that when he was eighteen and Jimmy Wells was twenty, they parted in front of their favorite restaurant. He was heading out West to make his fortune, but nothing could pull Jimmy from New York. So, they agreed to meet twenty years later after they worked out their respective destinies.

Of course, with O. Henry's ironic reversal, Bob, the man from the West, unknowingly is talking to Patrolman Jimmy Wells, who recognizes "Silky Bob," as a man wanted in Chicago. But, since he does not have the heart to arrest his old friend, Jimmy does not reveal himself. Instead, he sends a plainclothes policeman in his place later to make the arrest and give Bob a note from him.

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In O'Henry's short story, Bob is waiting for his friend, Jimmy Wells. This is a very special appointment because this appointment was made twenty years ago.

Accordingly, twenty years ago, both men made a promise to meet at the same time and place in New York City in order to confirm the rightness of their individual decisions. It appears that, at the time, Bob was determined to seek his fortune elsewhere, but Jimmy insisted on staying and working out his destiny in New York City. Each was equally persuaded that his own conviction was the right one.

They chose to meet after twenty years because both felt sure that this would be an adequate period for either man to carve out their own destiny and their own fortunes, 'whatever they were going to be.'

Bob tells the policeman that he is certain Jimmy would meet him because 'he always was the truest, stanchest old chap in the world.' He asserts that if his old friend turned up, it would be worth the thousand miles he had to travel to meet with him.

As is O'Henry's style, Jimmy does turn up, but Bob is in for the surprise of his life when his old friend sends another detective to arrest him. Even after twenty years, Jimmy recognizes his old friend, who is a wanted man in Chicago. Staying true to his humanity and to his duty as an officer of the law, Jimmy manages to capture a wanted criminal while preserving the memories of a shared camaraderie from years ago.

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What is so special about the appointment of two friends in "After Twenty Years"?

That both "Silky" Bob and Jimmy Wells have duly turned up for their appointment as planned says a lot about the deep friendship they once shared. For most people, the idea of meeting up with a friend twenty years from now in the exact same place as the last time meeting is too strange for words. Even close friends can drift apart over such a long time. Few people would demonstrate the same commitment to making such a solemn promise, never mind keeping it.

But Bob and Jimmy are different. Bob may be a serial criminal, but when it comes to his old school buddy he always keeps his promises. As for Jimmy, one gets the impression that he would gladly have turned up for the big meeting even if he hadn't been a cop setting up Bob to be arrested. Whatever line of work he was in, he wouldn't have missed this appointment for anything.

Bob and Jimmy have taken radically different paths in life, but they are still bound by ties of friendship. That explains why Jimmy can't bring himself to arrest his old pal; a detective does it instead. It also explains why we can be so sure that Jimmy would've turned up to his appointment with Bob after all this time, even if he hadn't been a member of New York's finest.

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"After Twenty Years" is about an appointment between two friends. What is special about this appointment?  

In O. Henry's story "After Twenty Years," two men are meeting because twenty years previously they set a date to meet up with each other, no matter where they were living or what they were doing. Bob and Jimmy went their separate ways as young men, with Bob heading out West to seek his fortune and Jimmy remaining in New York City. Although the two corresponded a few times in the beginning, they have not heard from each other for at least eighteen years. Neither knows what the other has been doing, what his profession is, or whether he is even still alive. Yet each man feels a very strong commitment to keep the appointment, even though Bob comes from "a thousand miles" away to do so and is putting himself at great risk. For Jimmy, keeping the appointment is quite easy since he has stayed in the area where they intend to meet; in fact, as a policeman he walks a beat in that very precinct.

Bob is convinced that his friend will arrive for the appointment because he knows Jimmy is "the truest, staunchest old chap in the world." Ironically, Bob's knowledge of Jimmy's character should have warned him that Jimmy may have ended up in police work and/or would end up turning him over as a wanted criminal; instead, he believes his trip will have been worth it if his "old partner turns up." Whether he retains that opinion after Jimmy has him arrested is left to the reader to determine. Nevertheless, the fact that Bob keeps his word to his friend about the appointment and speaks so highly of him makes the reader consider that "Silky Bob" may have some redeeming qualities.

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