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William Sydney Porter a.k.a. O Henry William Sydney Porter • O. Henry was the pseudonym of the American writer William Sydney Porter. • O. Henry was born in Greensboro, North Carolina on September 11, 1862 and died on June 5, 1910 at the age of 47. • O. Henry's short stories are well known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization and clever twist endings. William Sydney Porter • In 1879, he started working in his • When William was three, his uncle's drugstore and in 1881, at mother died from tuberculosis, so the age of nineteen, he was he and his father moved into the licensed as a pharmacist. home of his paternal grandmother. • As a child, William was always reading, everything from classics to dime novels; his favorite work was Arabian Nights (a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories). • William graduated from his aunt's elementary school in 1876. He then enrolled at the Lindsey Street High School. His aunt continued to tutor him until he was fifteen. William Sydney Porter • William traveled to Texas in March 1882, hoping that a change of air would help alleviate a persistent cough he had developed. He took up residence on the sheep ranch and helped out as a shepherd, ranch hand, cook and baby-sitter. • While on the ranch, he also spent time reading classic literature. • William’s health did improve and he traveled to Austin in 1884, where he decided to remain. William took a number of different jobs over the next several years, first as a pharmacist then as a draftsman, bank teller and journalist. He also began writing personally on the side. William Sydney Porter • William led an active social life in Austin, including membership in singing and drama groups. He played both the guitar and the mandolin. He became a member of the "Hill City Quartet,” a group of young men who sang at gatherings and serenaded young women of the town. • At the age of 25, William met and began courting Athol Estes, then seventeen years old and from a wealthy family. Her mother objected to the match because Athol was ill, suffering from tuberculosis, but on July 1, 1887, William and Athol eloped. William Sydney Porter • The couple continued to participate in musical and theater groups, and Athol encouraged her husband to pursue his writing. • Athol gave birth to a son in 1888, who died hours after birth, and then a daughter, Margaret Worth Porter, in September 1889. • William was offered a job as a draftsman at the Texas General Land Office in 1887 at a salary of $100 a month, drawing maps from surveys and field notes. The salary was enough to support his family, but he continued his contributions to magazines and newspapers. William Sydney Porter • During this time, William began developing characters and plots for such stories as "Georgia's Ruling" (1900), and "Buried Treasure" (1908). The castle-like building he worked in was even woven into some of his tales such as "Bexar Scrip No. 2692" (1894). • William resigned from his draftsman position in early 1891 and began working at the First National Bank of Austin as a teller and bookkeeper. • In 1894, William was accused by the bank of embezzlement and lost his job but was not indicted. William Sydney Porter • He then worked full time on his humorous weekly publication called The Rolling Stone, which he started while working at the bank. The Rolling Stone featured satire on life, people and politics and included William's short stories and sketches. • The Rolling Stone failed in April 1895. But by this time, his writing and drawings caught the attention of the editor at the Huston Post. William Sydney Porter • Porter and his family moved to Houston in 1895, where he started writing for the Post. His salary was only $25 a month, but it rose steadily as his popularity increased. • William gathered ideas for his column by hanging out in hotel lobbies and observing and talking to people there. This was a technique he used throughout his writing career. • While he was in Houston, the First National Bank of Austin was audited and the federal auditors found several discrepancies. They managed to get a federal indictment against William. He was subsequently arrested on charges of embezzlement, charges which he denied, in connection with his employment at the bank. William Sydney Porter • William's father-in-law posted bail to keep him out of jail, but the day before he was due to stand trial on July 7, 1896, he fled, first to New Orleans and later to Honduras. • While hiding in a hotel for several months, he wrote Cabbages and Kings, in which he coined the term “banana republic” to describe the country, subsequently used to describe almost any small, unstable tropical nation in Latin America. William Sydney Porter • William had planned on having his family meet him in Honduras but unfortunately, Athol became too ill to meet him. When he learned that his wife was dying, he returned to Austin in February 1897 and surrendered to the court. Once again, Porter's father-in-law posted bail so he could stay with Athol and Margaret. • Athol died on July 25, 1897, from tuberculosis. William Sydney Porter • William, having little to say in his own defense, was found guilty of embezzlement in February 1898, sentenced to five years jail, and imprisoned on March 25, 1898 at the Ohio Penitentiary. • While in prison, he had fourteen stories published under various pseudonyms, but was becoming best known as "O. Henry." • William was released on July 24, 1901, for good behavior after serving three years. Porter reunited with his daughter Margaret, now age 11. William Sydney Porter • William's most prolific writing period started in 1902, when he moved to New York City • He wrote a story a week for over a year for the New York World Sunday Magazine. His wit, characterization and plot twists were adored by his readers. • William married again in 1907, to childhood sweetheart Sarah Lindsey Coleman, whom he met again after revisiting his native state of North Carolina. William Sydney Porter • Despite the success of his short stories being published in magazines and collections, William drank heavily. • His health began to deteriorate in 1908, which affected his writing. Sarah left him in 1909, and William died on June 5, 1910, of cirrhosis of the liver, complications of diabetes and an enlarged heart. The Exact Science of Matrimony • O. Henry's stories are famous for their surprise endings, to the point that such an ending is often referred to as an "O. Henry ending." He was called the American answer to Guy de Maupassant. Both authors wrote twist endings, but O. Henry stories were much more playful and optimistic. His stories are also well known for witty narration. • Most of O. Henry's stories are set in his own time, the early years of the 20th century. Many take place in New York City and deal for the most part with ordinary people: clerks, policemen, waitresses. The Exact Science of Matrimony “A charming widow, beautiful and home-loving, would like to remarry. She is only thirty-two years old. She has three thousand dollars in cash and owns valuable property in the country. She would like a poor man with a loving heart. No objection to an older man or to one who is not good-looking. But he needs to be faithful and true, can take care of property and invest money with good judgment. Give address, with details about yourself. Signed: Lonely, care of Peters and Tucker, agents, Cairo, Illinois.” The Exact Science of Matrimony • After you have read the story, write a paragraph response on the following question: Why are O. Henry’s stories appreciated? • Feel free to add your own opinion on the story you just read. William Sydney Porter a.k.a. O Henry The Exact Science of Matrimony • After you have read the story, write a paragraph response on the following question: Why are O. Henry’s stories appreciated? • Feel free to add your own opinion on the story you just read. The Exact Science of Matrimony • Why would two men write an advertisement for a woman they haven’t met yet? • Who is the just and fair character in this story and why? • Who is the cunning and unfair character in this story and why? • “In all illegal activities, we must obey the laws in every detail.” Explain. The Exact Science of Matrimony • How did Mrs. Trotter become a widow? • Why does Mrs. Trotter agree to participate in the activity? • How did the two men make their money? • What caused the agency to stop their business? • "'Then are you William Wilkinson?' says I. "'I was,' says Andy.“ Explain? New Story The Gift of the Magi • Before you read the story, think about the things that matter most to you. • Make a list of the top five most important things in your lives. • Consider whether the items on your list are physical possessions or more abstract (did you list your Xbox or your family?) • Discuss the things you value, and consider whether you value possessions or people more. The Gift of the Magi • "The Gift of the Magi" is a short story written by O. Henry, about a young married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. • As a sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving, it has been a popular one for adaptation, especially for presentation during the Christmas season. • The plot and its twist ending are well-known, and the story and lesson are sometimes subverted for the sake of irony or humor. The Gift of the Magi • Now READ the story and answer the following questions….. The Gift of the Magi 1. How do you know where Jim and Della stand financially? 2. At the beginning of the story, what do Jim and Della each value most in the world? 3. What adjectives could be used to describe Jim and Della, and why? 4. How is Della's fear justified before Jim comes home; when Jim first enters the house? 5. What does Jim think when he sees Della's hair? 6. How is this different from Della's interpretation? 7. Why can't Della use Jim's gift? Why can't he use hers? 8. Now what do you think Jim and Della value most in the world? How do you know that? William Sydney Porter a.k.a. O Henry The Gift of the Magi 1. How do you know where Jim and Della stand financially? 2. At the beginning of the story, what do Jim and Della each value most in the world? 3. What adjectives could be used to describe Jim and Della, and why? 4. How is Della's fear justified before Jim comes home; when Jim first enters the house? 5. What does Jim think when he sees Della's hair? 6. How is this different from Della's interpretation? 7. Why can't Della use Jim's gift? Why can't he use hers? 8. Now what do you think Jim and Della value most in the world? How do you know that? The Gift of the Magi The Gift of the Magi • IRONY: – The situational irony in this story is that Jim and Della are unable to use the gifts they received because they sold their precious possessions to purchase gifts for one another. • SYMBOLISM: – The watch and the hair represent the love that Jim and Della had for each other. Even though they loved their possessions, they were willing to sacrifice those possessions for each other. The Gift of the Magi • ALLUSION – The main allusion is in the title. – In Christian tradition, the Magi, also referred to as the Three Wise Men, are a group of foreigners who are said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense. – The gifts that the three kings brought to Christ were precious and significant. The Gift of the Magi • ALLUSION cont. – All three gifts are ordinary offerings and gifts given to a king. Myrrh being commonly used as an anointing oil, frankincense as a perfume, and gold as a valuable. – The three gifts also had a spiritual meaning : gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense (incense) as a symbol of priesthood, and myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death. – Sometimes this is described more generally as gold symbolizing virtue, frankincense symbolizing prayer, and myrrh symbolizing suffering. The Gift of the Magi Exit Slip Choose ONE topic: a) Relate “The Gift of the Magi” to the biblical story of “The Three Wise Men.” b) Relate “The Gift of the Magi” to a personal story of your own.
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