23 pages 46 minutes read

O. Henry

After Twenty Years

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1906

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Important Quotes

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“The policeman on the beat moved up the avenue impressively. The impressiveness was habitual and not for show, for spectators were few.”

(Paragraph 1)

The opening lines of the short story introduce almost everything the reader needs to know about Jimmy, one of the main characters: he is a police officer, and he does his job very well and humbly. He does not perform his work for other people’s approval, thus making it clear to the reader his loyalty to his occupation—a loyalty that will be challenged and will prevail later in the story.

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“‘It’s all right, officer,’ he said, reassuringly.”

(Paragraph 4)

This is the first verbal interaction between the policeman and the man from the West. The policeman, later revealed to be Jimmy, cannot see the man’s face as of this moment. We discover later that, in this moment, Jimmy was probably excited to see that his friend kept his promise to meet him there in 20 years. The man’s quick reassurance to the officer that all is well is a hint to the reader that he is stressed around policemen, foreshadowing his continual run from the law.

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“The man in the doorway struck a match and lit his cigar. The light showed a pale, square-jawed face with keen eyes, and a little white scar near his right eyebrow.”

(Paragraph 6)

The reader finds out later from Jimmy’s note that this is the moment when Jimmy realizes his friend is the infamous “Silky” Bob, as he recognizes his face from wanted posters.