About the author

O Henry was a famous American Short story writer whose actual name was William Sydney Porter. The main contents of his work includes lives of ordinary people in New York City. His stories are well- known for expressing the effect of co-incidence on characters and often had unexpected twists in the end.

O Henry’s short story “After Twenty Years” was published in the year 1906. The gift of the Magi, The Cop and the Anthem, The Ransom of Red Chief, A Retrieved Reformation and The Third Ingredient are his other popular short Stories.

Points to remember

  1. The Characters are Bob and Jimmy Wells.
  2. Bob has become a criminal after twenty years while Jimmy has pursued his education and is now a successful constable/policeman.

Introduction

The story “After Twenty Years”, by O.Henry, revolves around the friendship of two childhood friends, Jimmy Wells and Bob. The story carries themes of Loyalty, Friendship, and trust as well. The character of the Constable, Jimmy, remains hidden throughout the story but his true identity is revealed when the story approaches it’s end.

The two friends-Jimmy Wells and Bob were raised in New York City and grew up as bosom buddies (Best friends). The two parted their ways when Bob moved towards West in order to earn money while Jimmy opted to stay in New York as young adults.

The Story Begins

Twenty years later, Bob re-appeared and stood outside a restaurant where he and Jimmy parted their ways. Jimmy, who has now become a policeman, was making his rounds at 10’O clock. On his way of a hardware store, that was closed, he got encountered to Bob, with an unlit cigar in his mouth.

Bob knew that the policeman was definitely going to have suspicion on him, so he immediately assured the constable that he is not a burglar and he has just come to meet one of his closest childhood friend, whom he had kept the promise of meeting once again and sharing their life achievements.

He goes on to light his cigar and tell the police that why he and his friend have planned to meet at such an isolated and dark place. Bob kept on telling about the alternation in his life that how rich and successful he has become.

He further talks about his friend, Jimmy by appreciating his practicality that Jimmy is never going to dismiss the agreement made between them, as he has always been a good companion.

Someone Appears

Jimmy, without revealing his identity, dismisses from the place and after twenty minutes another man comes to Bob. Both Bob and the man greeted each other but after few conversation, Bob realised that the man, whom he was talking to, had a different nose than that of Jimmy. After the encounter, Bob noticed that the unknown man has just pretended to be Jimmy and Bob was under arrest for ten minutes.

Then the man informs Bob, that the person, with whom he was talking to before was actually none other than Jimmy and he has now become a constable so it was awkward for Jimmy to arrest his own best friend and he had left before he could get recognised and found a plain-cloth officer to arrest him.

It was the ending, when the readers are made aware of the fact that both the friends had gone entirely to different and opposite directions in their respective lives, where one cannot even think to befriend the other.

Further Reading

After Twenty Years Questions and Answers