One Thousand Dollars

by O. Henry

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Why does Gillian consider one thousand dollars an awkward amount in "One Thousand Dollars"?

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Young Gillian finds one thousand dollars "a confoundedly awkward amount" because it is not enough for him to "do himself credit," and it is too much to unburden himself of it facilely (superficially).

After the death of his wealthy uncle who has supported Gillian, he is called in to Lawyer Tolman. The attorney explains to the young man that according to his uncle's will, Gillian is required to spend $1000 and then to provide an accounting of this spending. It is then that Gillian expresses his disinclination to comply with the terms of the will.

When Gillian goes to the men's club to which he belongs, and asks the cynical Old Bryson what he should do with $1000, Bryson "moralizes" as Gillian terms his suggestions. Again, he asks for what he can do with this money. Then Bryson snidely tells the young man who has spent his life spending his uncle's money frivolously to buy an actress that he dallies with a diamond pendant. But, when he goes to the Columbine Theatre, Miss Lauriere is disinterested because another actress has a necklace that cost much more. So, Robert Gillian talks to some people about how he could spend the money; finally, he asks Tolman if Miss Hayden, a ward of the deceased uncle has received anything other than a ring and $10 and is told that she has not.

Gillian returns to his uncle's mansion and declares his love to Miss Hayden, who rejects him. So, he puts the money into an envelope and pretends that his uncle willed her another thousand and Tolman asked him to deliver it. He leaves the money with her. Then, he writes out his accounting as required.

However, he later is told by the lawyers that if he has spent the $1000 wisely, he will receive $50,000 from a codicil to the will; otherwise, the money goes to Miss Hayden. Quickly, Gillian tears his accounting and says that it was merely an account of bets he lost at the races. He departs whistling as the lawyers shake their heads. Ironically, then, Gillian has actually done himself credit, and has dispensed of the money rather easily since he gives it to the woman he loves. 

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