Reading Pointers For Sharper Insights

As you read this collection of the best of O. Henry's short stories, keep the following points in mind:

Surprise Endings

The Depiction of Poverty and Wealth

  • Having no money is not indicative of being poor.
  • There is a kind of nobility, even in the most poverty-stricken lives.
  • For a few, one tragedy will lead to another.
  • O. Henry usually portrays poverty sympathetically and condemns the forces that cause it.
  • Money is no barrier when it comes to love.


  • New York City and its surroundings near the beginning of the 20thcentury
  • Texas, or the West, at the turn of the century


  • ordinary people in menial jobs struggling to survive
  • con men who derive their income from swindling innocent victims
  • people, both rich and poor, caught up by circumstances beyond their control
  • O. Henry's sympathetic portrayal of his characters
  • immigrants or first-generation Americans
  • the underdog
  • self-sacrificing heroes


  • dialects and slang
  • digressions and asides to the reader
  • the use of simile, metaphor, personification, and allusion
  • puns, malapropisms, and excessive vocabulary used for humor
  • lightheartedness and sensitivity


  • If love is even slightly dishonest, it will fail.
  • Love is available to everyone.
  • True love is more valuable than money and will conquer nearly any evil.
  • Love is frequently unexpected.