23 pages 46 minutes read

O. Henry

After Twenty Years

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1906

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Authorial Context: O. Henry

O. Henry, born William Sydney Porter on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina, began his writing career while imprisoned for embezzlement, necessitating the use of a pseudonym to hide his identity. His impact on American literary tradition is so great that one of the most prestigious literary prizes, the O. Henry Award, is named for him, and it recognizes excellence in short story writing. He was born during the American Civil War and lost his mother to tuberculosis at age three. As a child, he was educated at his Aunt Lina’s private school, and then as a teenager and adult he became a licensed pharmacist and found a love for New York City and celebrating the daily life of ordinary people and social outcasts. Such an appreciation for his own time and city is found in many of his short stories, which are typically set in New York at the turn of the 20th century, and feature Everyman figures, such as policemen and the unhoused in stories like “The Cop and the Anthem,” or ordinary couples making well-intentioned mistakes in “The Gift of the Magi.” O. Henry eventually was on the run from the law to avoid being tried for embezzlement, abandoning his wife and child.