23 pages 46 minutes read

O. Henry

After Twenty Years

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1906

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Story Analysis

Analysis: “After Twenty Years”

“After Twenty Years” (1906) is written in the genre of realism, in which a true reflection of regular life is emphasized in a neutral and objective manner. Realism typically focuses on the development of characters and their daily occurrences and preoccupations, especially those that belong to the middle class (waitresses, police officers, etc.) and the lower class (unhoused, factory workers, etc.). O. Henry also wrote stories about those outside of mainstream culture, such as criminals. O. Henry uses realism to help the reader question their preconceptions of those deemed socially unacceptable: the unhoused are just unlucky, and the criminal is still loyal to their childhood friend. Realism’s job is not to directly preach to the reader with an obvious lesson given by a narrator but to simply represent situations as they are and let the reader find the lesson. Realism played a crucial role in journalistic integrity and civil rights; rather than romanticizing suffering, crime, and injustice, it details it, leaving the reader with no choice but to accept that the injustice is actually happening and action must be taken, or at the very least, understanding must be given to the human behind the sufferer and the outlaw.