Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

O. Henry’s story of life in turn-of-the-century New York highlights a favorite romantic theme: the contest between love and money. In “Mammon and the Archer,” this rivalry manifests itself in a wily old millionaire and his gentle, sentimental sister. Each believes that Richard can fulfill his dream only by relying exclusively on his or her principles: Mammon, the god of wealth, in the father’s view; or Cupid, the god of love, in the aunt’s view. The author cleverly designed a story making both of them winners, by using both principles to bring about a happy ending. Without the power of the gold ring, which distracted Richard for a minute and delayed his journey, he would have driven across town too soon, missing the huge traffic jam and losing the opportunity to spend time with Miss Lantry and win her love. Without the power of the Rockwall money to orchestrate the traffic jam, Richard’s journey would have taken only a few minutes and denied him his chance to make her his own.

The story also effectively captures the stereotypes of masculine and feminine character. In a stereotypically masculine way, Anthony Rockwall formulates a dynamic plan to buy time for Richard to win his love. In a stereotypically feminine way, Aunt Ellen remembers an old promise made to her sister-in-law about a ring and trusts the magic of a love token. The father’s strategy to create a blockade of hired vehicles is practical, well planned, well managed in the capable...

(The entire section is 448 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Money versus Love‘‘Mammon,’’ the first word used in the title, is a synonym for wealth or money, so the reader is alerted...

(The entire section is 1087 words.)