If I have learned anything from reading O. Henry’s short stories (and I have learned much), I have learned creativity. Henry did not limit himself to writing like any other writer might do; if he had, we would not remember him. Henry took ordinary, everyday stories and made his readers remember them.
Whenever I think O. Henry, I do not think gratuitously poetic descriptions, because he wrote none. I do not think fantastically ideal situations or romantic heroes, because he created none. I do not think writing that broke the bounds of traditional English style, because O. Henry stuck by the book with his style. I remember Henry for his creativity, and that not in any of the previous ways, as I remember some writers. I remember Henry for the surprise ending. His surprise endings never fail to surprise me in an instructive and enlightening way.
O. Henry achieved creativity and originality, by which he gained enough fame and recognition to make the literary want-to-be-giants of his day greenly envious. As a writer, O. Henry’s success and style show me that I can achieve creativity without being a literary giant. I can achieve originality without owning the recognition of some great school of thought. I only need good ideas, and the courage to go out on a limb, while staying within the bounds of regular English.
Henry, O. The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories, edited by Shane Weller. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1992.
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