The Furnished Room - analysis
O. Henry (1867-1910)
O. Henry is the famous non de plume of William Sydney Porter, but why he chose such a pen name is a mystery, the most likely explanation being that it was done as a joke. Born in North Carolina in 1867. In 1884 at the age of 17 he moved to Texas where he worked on a ranch, but it was not long before he was on the staff of a newspaper. A year later O. Henry bought and ran his own newspaper, but his venture into commerce was not a success, so he went to South America and remainded there for some years. When he returned to Texas he worked in a drug store, but this type of work did not suit his creative bent and he soon found himself in New Orleans. In 1896, while he was employed as the teller of an Austin bank, a shortage in the cash accounts was attributed to him, and he was sentenced to a term in jail. It was during his imprisonment that he assumed the name of O. Henry and began work in earnest as a writer of short stories.
Upon his release he went to New York, living there until he died of a wasting disease at the age of 43 in 1910. Within 14 years, the success of his stories was so great that he was contributing one every week to the "World" and many more to the leading magazines of the country. He wrote over 270 stories, but not one novel.
It has been said that O. Henry wrote funny stories, but this is only applicable in its widest sense for his stories always seemed to contain a moral which was not always portrayed in a funny way. He was a master of the anecdotal plot and the surprise ending, often in the last paragraph. Many of his stories are meretricious, with an excessive trickiness in the plotting and a flashy glitter in the style. At his best, however—as in the volume, The Four Million—the emotion is real and the humour and pathos ring true. He loved to write about New York—which he affectionately called Bagdad-on-the-Subway—about its small clerks, its aspiring young actors and artists, and all the horde of little people and failures who also lived in the great city where the egregious Ward McAllister could find only "four hundred" who were worthy of notice and consideration.
If we look for the man behind the stories we see a whimsical, shy unassuming, yet generous man who shunned the limelight. It is said that when he was dying his wit was still with him for, he is reputed to have said, "Don't turn down the light," then suddenly remembering the words of a popular song he added, "I'm afraid to go home in the dark."
O. Henry very rarely touched the note of the supernatural, but "The Furnished Room," with its ghostly fragrance, is among the best of all his stories.
- This is a story about a young man’s search for his sweetheart in a large city. and his subsequent suicide after not being able to find her. He dies without ever knowing that his sweetheart had also committed suicide in the same room only a week earlier.
-Exposition: The story begins with a young man renting a room.
-Conflict: The young man experiences a supernatural encounter.
-Climax: The young man asks the housekeeper about his sweetheart, but gets a negative reply. Dejected, he kills himself with the gas from the lamp.
-The story ends with the two housekeepers talking about the girl, whom the young man was searching for, who died in the room.
-the worn, bruised, furnished room
-in a city
-poor condition of the room represents the cruelty of the people in general. “a glow of pseudo-hospitality, a hectic, haggard, perfunctory welcome like the specious smile of a demirep
- Major character/Protagonist: the young man
- Minor characters/Static: Mrs. Purdy and Mrs. McCool (nothing much is revealed about them)
Point of View
- Limited omniscient (3rd person )
- The story is seen through outside observer (the author is not part of the story – not one of the characters)
-Anxiety “Restless, shifting, fugacious as time itself.” -Isolation & loneliness being an individual in a big city.
-The struggles and uncertainties that young people face, in search of self and identity.