Unit Six
The Human Touch
Text A
The Last Leaf
O. Henry
Author Introduction
O.Henry (1862-19
Pseudonym (笔名 of William Sidney 笔名) 笔名 Porter. O. Henry, one of the three most famous short-story writers in the world, enjoys equal status with Chekhov and Maupassant. Some critics called him “the founder of American stories.” Exquisite(精巧的 plot, wry(反语的 精巧的) 反语的) 精巧的 反语的 humor and twist ending(煞尾奇峰突出 煞尾奇峰突出) 煞尾奇峰突出 dominate his works.
O. Henry( William Sidney Porter) was a well-known American writer in the late nineteenth century. His writings are mostly in the form of short stories which are liked by the people all over the world. In all his life, O. Henry wrote a large quantity of works, including “The Gift of the Magi”, “The Cop and the Anthem”, and “The Last Leaf”.
On O. Henry & His Short Stories
By Meng Lingmin
O. Henry, mouthpiece of the lower people

  1.Sympathy for the poor people . 2 . Reflecting the ordinary people

  1. Sympathy for the poor people and its origin: Many of his stories show sympathy for the lower people. These works sympathize with the young poor couple, 穷困潦倒者), with the down and outer(穷困潦倒者 the 穷困潦倒者 drifter(流浪汉 or the alien(外国人 with 流浪汉), 外国人), 流浪汉 外国人 his sympathy as the main feature of his works and is a projection of his personal loneliness. O. Henry’s original feeling for the poor people has a great deal to do with his own experience full of frustration.
O. Henry had a sad experience in his early years. His mother died when he was three years old, then he was brought up by his aunt, and virtually became an orphan. He worked in his uncle’s drugstore with little schooling. In 1887, O. Henry fell in love with a girl called Athol Estes, but her family didn’t agree to the marriage of the young couple. As a result, the two young people had no choice but to run away together. In 1897, O. Henry was charged with embezzlement (挪用 of funds from 挪用) 挪用 the Austin, Texas bank.
To avoid being arrested, he fled to New Orleans and Honduras. His wife became ill during his absence, so he had to come back secretly. One trouble followed another. He was heart-broken with grief for his wife’s death. Finally he was arrested and sentenced to five years in the Ohio Prison. In prison he thought of his own misery and humiliation, also the lower people’s lives around him. He was determined to write diligently with his pen as a mouthpiece(代言人 of the poor people. 代言人) 代言人
In short, without O. Henry’s miserable experience, there would not be his deep sympathy for the lower people in his stories.
Reflecting the ordinary people and its origin In many of O. Henry’s short stories, he ’ wrote about the lives of the ordinary people in New York, as well as in the other places. Writing about the ordinary people is one of the distinguishing features of O. Henry’s stories. Why could he have a ’ minute (准确的 description about the 准确的) 准确的 lives of the ordinary people? This is because he followed several different occupations and got in touch with all sorts of the lower people.
When he was eighteen years old, he went to Taxas, a land of ranchers(大农场 大农场 的工人) 牛仔), 的工人 and cowboys(牛仔 flocks of 牛仔 sheep and herds of cattle, where he worked for two years. And later he worked as a clerk in the bank, where he was accused of embezzling money. After he was out of prison, he went off to Pittsburgh to start a new life. He worked as a writer for Pittsburgh Dispatch newspaper for a while and then drifted on to New York.
In order to know New York and its inhabitants, he often wandered about had conversations with strangers on the streets or in the parks. He would often walk and talk at all hours of the night with children, poor people and even tramps(流 流 浪者) 浪者 and thieves, and invite them into a restaurant with him to drink coffee. He observed every aspect of the life in New York and the other places. His stories vividly reflect these, so the reading public are especially fond of his stories and feel his writing particularly friendly. This alone may account for why O. Henry became a famous writer in America.
The characteristics of his writing

  1.Surprising endings(出人意料的 . 出人意料的 结尾) 结尾
  2.The vividness of details(生动的 . 生动的 细节) 细节
  3.Coincidence(巧合 巧合) . 巧合

  1. Surprise ending
His surprise ending is especially liked by readers and makes all readers think of it long after.
The Magi: the three wise men from the East who brought gifts to the infant Jesus In “The Gift of the Magi”, O. Henry used the most famous trick ending. The story tells readers about how a poor young husband and wife buy each other a Christmas present, though they are both nearly penniless. They make up their minds to get a suitable Christmas gift for the other side for sincere love. The wife has her beautiful hair cut off and sells the hair to buy the husband a gold watch chain.
He sells his watch to get a set of combs. When he and she finally know what is the matter, both of them feel very surprised and at the same time , they feel much disappointed, for the presents that they have bought have no use at this time. The conception(构思) of this is really conception(构思 构思) ingenious(精巧的 and clever. When the 精巧的) 精巧的 story is over, the readers become intoxicated(陶醉 in the minute 陶醉) 陶醉 arrangement of the writer, and meanwhile are deeply moved by this young affectionate couple.
In “The Cop and the Anthem”, a vagrant(流浪者 tries to be arrested by 流浪者) 流浪者 the police and put into prison in order to get a shelter in the winter. He has a meal in a restaurant without paying, breaks the glass of the window, takes liberties with (放肆 a young pretty 放肆) 放肆 woman and robs a man of his umbrella, etc. But all the evil deeds don’t get him arrested. At last Soapy is moved by the music coming from a small church.
When he is determined to correct his errors and make a fresh start, he is caught by a policeman. The sad end of the story surprises every reader. When Soapy does bad things and wants to be arrested, he can’t be arrested. When he doesn’t do bad things and wants to turn over a new leaf, he is done wrong to become a prisoner. As every reader can see, O. Henry affords food for thought in this story.

  2. The vividness of details
O. Henry often observes the people and things around him, so he always gives a description of vivid details in his short stories. He does his best to make his portrayal exact and exquisite. The very style of the stories is absorbing (引人入胜 引人入胜 的). Such detailed description makes every reader indulge him in the plots of the story. The more people read such writings, the more they are interested in the characters and plots in the stories.

  3. Coincidence Coincidence is another characteristic of O. Henry’s writing. In many of his stories, there are many coincidental plots. In “The Gift of Magi”, Della sells her long hair to get Jim a gold watch chain, and Jim sells his watch to buy Della a set of combs. How coincidental it is really!
Background of the story 19th Century American New York
In America, the Industrial Revolution began just before the beginning of the 19th century. Cities grew quickly, population density was extremely high, much higher than today, and large numbers of people lived in tenements (廉租公寓 Tenement housing was dirty, 廉租公寓). 廉租公寓 crowded, noisy, and immensely unhealthful. Cities were smelly and unpleasant.
Like other cities in the 19th century in Europe and North America, New York was an unhealthy place. In 1866 an outbreak of cholera(霍乱 killed 2,000 霍乱) 霍乱 New Yorkers. Many poor New Yorkers lived in tenements(廉租公寓 廉租公寓). 廉租公寓
As a matter of fact, disease was so rampant(猖獗 in 19th century cities that 猖獗) 猖獗 their natural population growth was negative - meaning that only because of migration, either from the countryside or from outside the U.S., did the population of cities grow. Large cities were ugly and dark, with very little 绿叶) greenery(绿叶 to relieve the grey of 绿叶 buildings. As the Industrial Revolution progressed, cities became polluted as well, and were noted only for their ugliness and the misery of their inhabitants.
Setting Setting is an important element in any short story, and it is particularly important in The Last Leaf. What are the two main parts of a story's setting? Time Place &
Place The Last Leaf takes place in New York City, the largest city in America. The location of the story is a small part of New York known as Greenwich Village (pronounced "grennitch", not "green-witch").
How many seasons are there in your country? In which season is it easiest to fall ill? In which season did the story happen?
The story happened in New York’ autumn.


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