Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The Gold That Glittered by O. Henry
I read my first O. Henry short story when I was about ten or eleven, so I’ve gotten used to the surprise endings of his short stories. That’s kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it? Being prepared for surprises? But that’s exactly how I feel about O. Henry’s short stories. It’s like I’m already expecting a punch, but I don’t know where it’s going to hit.
In The Gold That Glittered, General Falcon of Colombia travels to New York to buy arms for a revolution. Mr. Kelley, a swindler who immediately wins the general’s trust, hatches a plan to fool the general into giving him the money. Mr. Kelley and even General Falcon, however, never expected the appearance—interference would be more accurate—of the blonde Madame O’Brien.
The Gold That Glittered is different from any other O. Henry short story I’ve ever read, and I think that’s because of General Falcon. This guy is self-assured, confident, and naïve all at the same time. He speaks in broken English, so you never really know what he’s trying to say, much more what he’s thinking. I think the mystery that shrouds him is what makes him interesting as a character. I didn’t really get to know him, but I think that was deliberate on O. Henry’s part.
And the ending? If you’ve read other O. Henry short stories before this one, it’s not as surprising as you probably expected. There were little clues, and I was just waiting to see if I was right. The Gold That Glittered was definitely an enjoyable read, and I lay all the blame on General Falcon and his misled quest for Winchester rifles.
You can read it here.