As his mustache demonstrates, he liked twist endings.
William Sydney Porter, Pen Name
O. Henry, is an American writer of chiefly short fiction (the most famous piece being "The Gift of the Magi
") and one novel (Cabbages and Kings
). His stories are famous for their Mandatory Twist Endings
, warm characterization and wit.
For some inexplicable reason—at least partially having to do with two film adaptations
, which are quite good—he is most popular in the former USSR republics
, where phrases such as "Bolivar cannot carry double" have become stock quotes.
The "Oh Henry!" candy bar (later associated with Hank Aaron) was partly named in homage to him. (And partly named for a boy who flirted with the girls at the candy factory.)
Works by O. Henry with their own trope pages include:
Other works by O. Henry provide examples of:
- Balloon Belly: Poor Stuffy Pete in "Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen", after he guilt-trips himself into eating two huge Thanksgiving dinners in immediate succession provided by mutually unaware benefactors:
"Around the first corner Stuffy turned, and stood for one minute. Then he seemed to puff out his rags as an owl puffs out his feathers, and fell to the sidewalk like a sunstricken horse."
- Banana Republic: Cabbages and Kings is the Trope Namer.
- Beleaguered Childhood Friend: After 20 Years.
- Big Applesauce: A popular setting of many of his stories; the short story collection The Four Million is set there.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Johnny Dorset from The Ransom of Red Chief.
- Can't Get In Trouble For Nuthin': The Cop and the Anthem.
- Con Man: Jeff Peters and Andy Tucker, protagonists in a cycle of stories.
- Cowboy: Normally of the Working Cowboy varieties, protagonists in many stories.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: An early example in "Shark" Dodson from The Roads We Take.
- Domestic Abuse: A Harlem Tragedy, which, despite the title and the subject matter, is a very light-hearted story.
- Downer Ending: Occasionally, for example in The Furnished Room and The Last of the Troubadours.
- Exasperated Perp: The Ransom of Red Chief.
- Flash Sideways: "The Roads We Take" starts as the story of a ruthless criminal who wonders what his life would have been like if he hadn't come West — then he wakes up, and from then on it's the story of a ruthless businessman who dreamed about what his life would have been like if he hadn't come East.
- Ill Girl: The Last Leaf.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: The Ransom of Red Chief.
- Let Off by the Detective: A Retrieved Reformation.
- Luke, I Am Your Father:
- Meaningful Echo: In "The Roads We Take", the paragraph about Dodson revealing his true nature is repeated word for word when the other Dodson turns out to be not so different.
- Mock Millionaire: Transients In Arcadia; The Policeman O'Roon
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Last of the Troubadours.
- No Name Given: What the hell does that "O" stand for?
- Pity the Kidnapper: The Ransom of Red Chief.
- Stupid Crooks: As mentioned immediately above, the kidnappers in "The Ransom of Red Chief." They're dumb enough to kidnap an obviously evil child, and he's such a terror that they end up having to pay his father to take him back.
- That Man Is Dead: A Retrieved Reformation, in a way.
- Title Drop: In "The Roads We Take", the protagonist wonders if he'd have turned out a different man if he'd made a key choice differently, and his colleague says "I reckon you'd have ended up about the same... It ain't the roads we take; it's what's inside of us that makes us turn out the way we do." The end of the story bears him out.
- Tomato Surprise: After Twenty Years has the revelation that the main character is an infamous criminal.
- Train Job: "The Roads We Take" opens with a trio of Wild West desperados hijacking a train when it stops to take on water.
- Trick Twist
- Villain Protagonist: Because O. Henry spent time in jail, many of his stories, like The Ransom of Red Chief, focus on (relatively) petty criminals.
- Wild West: Another popular setting; usually limited to Texas ranches.