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Surprise O Henrys multitude of short stories are still read and enjoyed almost as much today as when they were first published While he had done some writing before it was during his three-year incarceration in the Columbus Ohio Penitentiary for fraud that he began to write seriously O Henry vi O Henry was an observer of human nature who liked to walk about the city at night studying faces and inventing stories about them x Many of this prolific writers short stories are marked by a surprise ending and tend to focus on human emotions that most readers can identify with Both The gift of the Magi and The ransom of red chief illustrate his penchant for the twist ending his ability to portray the vast array of our human emotions including our ties to money and what they cause us to do He wrote of real people with real problems and brought tender understanding to his portraits of life Toni Shiffman p4 The Gift of the Magi is an example of his insight into what one couple does for love in the face of financial destitution Henry describes the little money they do have as Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer until ones cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied emphasizing the shame-filled scraping it took to get what little money they did have which is something many new couples throughout time have struggled with O Henry 1 He reinforces her desperation when he writes Three times Della counted it One dollar and eighty-seven cents And the next day would be Christmas 1 Most readers are able to identify with her situation having been there themselves at one time or another In this timeless Christmas story a couple of young married people want to provide a gift for each other that expresses
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