How has the authors life influenced his/her work?

Literature: O. Henry

  1. Henry is a renowned American author who was born on September 11, 1862, as William Sidney Porter. His father was a physician who was passionate about living with and caring for his children. His mother died when Porter was only three and the grandmother took over the responsibility of taking care and raising him(Richardson, 19). His brothers too died in their childhood and therefore he only depended on his extended family for comfort and socialization. His passion for the books started at an early age while being taught by his aunt in the school. He was a good reader throughout school but did not complete his education. He left school at fifteen and was employed by his uncle at a drug store in North Carolina and later at a ranch in Texas. This paper explores the person of O. Henry as the author and how his life has affected his work.

Later in his life, O. Henry moved to New York in 1902 and begun his writing career officially. He wrote a weekly story for the New York World and for several other magazines. It is also here that he wrote his first book Cabbages and Kings (1904), and The Four Million (1906) and several others. These first books and works carried several key themes that can be related to Porter’s life. These were majorly deception and the unchanging nature of fate (Henry, 43b). These two themes show that O. Henry was trying to reflect his life in his works. Having been born in a complete family with adequate income and love, Henry would have expected to live a life of comfort and success in education. However, this did not come to happen. His family ended up in parts with the death of his mother and two brothers. Very little is known about his father after he was taken to his grandmother’s house. His life was, therefore, reliant on fate and even the successes of the previous years did not change the nature of his fate (Henry, 23a).

  1. Henry was discriminated upon in his life as a young man living with a rather dysfunctional family. When he moved to New York, this discrimination even worsened when he was away from his people and the few relatives he had known. He had to pretend to fit into the situation and even embezzled from a bank leading to his incarceration(Richardson, 56). In his story, ‘A Cosmopolite in a Café’ Henry shows an example of a person who is trying to belong to a group that he is not. He does not, however, want to be asked about his origin since he believes that people will notice he is a fake cosmopolite and be discriminated against. This depicts Henry’s life and how he feared his past to be known and be discriminated against.

On deception, O. Henry has written several books and poems that depict deception as destructive and harming dreams. In his short stories, Strictly Business: More Stories of the Four Million (1910), O. Henry shows more about his life regarding deception(Henry, 87b). He expresses in several stories how people have had their dreams and visions shattered by deception. This can be related to his life as a young man, brought up in a family that was otherwise financially successful but that did not want to educate him further. His uncle employed him in a drug store instead of guiding him to complete his education(Henry, 65a). Later, he was not even able to keep him on the job, and he ended up leaving town to start his life anew away from the few family members he knew. He opted to be deceived and mistreated by life itself than his family. Further, he was already resigned to the unchanging nature of fate.

  1. Henry was, however, ready to explore other issues of life and relate them to his life. Although by the time he moved away from home and became a bank clerk he had already resigned to fate, his reunion with a childhood sweetheart made him realize that all was not lost. He immediately believed in the power of a willing mind to change fate and used this as a theme in his story ‘After Twenty Years.” In addition, O Henry used the story ‘According to Their Lights’ to show that even when fate dictates different ways of life for people, it is possible to change the way things happen to only people could understand that they can still move forward together even with their differences (Richardson, 34). From this story, O. Henry used the captain and mark to represent people who are on the same side of life and have different ideas about the life. For them to be successful, they must learn to be friends and not foes. This can be related to the experiences that the author probably had in prison(Henry, 45a). He had to live with several people from different backgrounds but with a similar fate as his. To survive, he and others were only to be friends and work together. O. Henry life is therefore significantly represented in his stories and the choice of themes in a variety of instances.
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