Why I love William Sydney Porter
William Sydney Porter (pen Name O'Henry)is the master of short stories. Hands down. Don't argue with me on this because I will make you very sorry. He twists up a story line perfectly and leaves me wanting more after every single story However, it must be said that he can twist a sentence with as much style, and give deeper meaning to words than they had before. In his story “A Furnished Room” O’Henry uses imagery to bring the reader into the state of mind of the protagonist. The protagonist does not come into the story until after two whole descriptive paragraphs that give the reader a glimpse into the tedious world that the tenants of the red brick district of the lower West Side. After the reader understands the “homeless” shifty state of these renters does O’Henry introduce the protagonist, not giving him a name. After ringing twelve bells the ‘young man’ finds an available rental. The description of the lady who answers the door gives me the creeps and sets a tone for the remainder of the story. O’Henry describes her as an “unwholesome surfeited worm that had eaten its nut to a hollow shell and now sought to fill the vacancy with edible lodgers.” This sentence is foreshadowing who the old lady really is, how she will do anything to fill the rooms. The imagery in the hall as she walks him to the room is that of a very run down home, a patchy carpet, and empty nooks and crannies that likely held live plants once upon a time. However O’henry does not write this simply, to me the man the best a painting a word picture. To describe the patchy carpet O’Henry writes “it seemed to have become vegetable; to have degenerated in that rank, sunless air to lush lichen or spreading moss that grew in patches to the staircase and was viscid under foot like organic matter.” I don’t think any other writer no matter the effort could come up with this imagery that O’Henry seemed to do effortlessly. (I say effortlessly because of the sheer number of work that he produced, allegedly while being alcoholic to boot). After the young man has seen his room he asks the housekeeper about a girl he is searching for. She replies that she does not know her, and despite the warning of character O’Henry gives the reader when we first meet the housekeeper I believe her. After the man is left alone we learn that he has spent five months in the city looking for his lost love. O’Henry describes the young mans search by stating that the city is like quicksand, “shifting it’s particles constantly with no foundation, it’s upper granules of today buried tomorrow in ooze and slime.” This description filled me with such hopelessness I felt like he would never find his love, then because it is an O’Henry story I figured she would end up being right next door. The young man dies in the furnished room. He spends the evening decoding the room and O’Henry painted every detail of it in his story then he believes that he smells the girl’s perfume and then after interrogating the housekeeper once again about the girl he returns back to the room and commits suicide. Now I was shocked at this point, but hey that is O’Henry. When I read in the last sentence that the previous tenant of the room committed suicide as well and was the very girl he was looking for I got the same feeling that I get every time I finish an O’Henry story, completion. To me O’Henry’s short stories are like a very decadent candy bar. It only takes a little and I am completely satisfied. I think that the furnished room in this story was symbolic of the hopeless tedious life of the revolving tenants, and I think that the sad story itself was symbolic of the entire class of people of that time because there is feeling of impotence throughout. From the beginning when O’Henry describes the tenants as homeless, to when the young man could not find a place to live, to when we discovered that he could not find his love and of course the tragic ending all of it was symbolic of the struggles the tenants faced during that time, in my opinion. I also don’t think that housekeeper is as bad as O’Henry paints her to be, after all the girl would still be dead even if she told the man the truth, and the man would have likely killed himself either way. O'Henry has hundreds of short stories in print and I am sad to say I have read all that I could get my hands on... I wish I never read them so I could discover him all over again and read every one for the first time once more. There is an O'Henry museum in Austin Texas for any one lives near enough to visit. I know it is something I will travel across the country to see when my life slows down a bit.