These stories present a fanciful impression of the wonders of language and craft. Without losing the artist’s keen awareness of humanity’s nuances, for me, these works ultimately led me to ponder the essence of irony and to question why the reader would find twists in such plots.
Of course, Alanis Morissette confused irony with unfortunate events. O. Henry understood irony as a simple objection to the expected outcome. But what causes readers to expect certain outcomes? Is there irony in a useless gift or beauty in loving sacrifice? Would the giver be sad at his ineffectual gift or vivaciously happy that someone would present it? These, among other twists, represent a consistent element in the human existence – that of cosmic connection and devotion, to better the lives of those around us after likely causing misery to those with whom we are bound.
Also, O. Henry masterfully manipulates the readers’ fluctuating sense of irony. One reader may find the twist nonsensical while another may feel elated at a character’s decision or the plot’s turn of events. In a way, perhaps O. Henry himself meant for us to question whether or not our sense of people and events aren’t confused and misguided.
O. Henry formulated an approach to story-telling which consistently entertained our longing for the unexpected twist. Yet before constructing this formula, he must have cultivated a deep understanding of those about whom he wrote – under circumstances at which we can laugh but do not sever the bonds of our true existence.