Jimmy to Ralph O. Henry was the nom de plume of William Sydney Porter, who began writing through contribution to magazines and newspapers. He started creating his characters as he worked as a draftsman for the Texas General Land Office. His writing is well known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization, and clever twist endings. In 1909, he wrote “A Retrieved Reformation,” whose title is an example of the literary device, alliteration.
The short story is about a cunning safe-cracker, Jimmy Valentine, who decides to give up his thieving to lead an honest life, but is still dogged by a persistent detective, Bill Price, who is hunting him; however, when Jimmy rescues a little girl from a safe with his burglar’s tools, Detective Bill Price pretends not to recognize him, giving him a second chance to stay true to his newfound identity. O.
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Henry uses a number of literary devices to enliven and provide voice to the writing; these devices include situational irony (Jimmy Valentine’s criminal, burglary tools serve as tools of rescue, as Bill Price witnesses Jimmy saving a life), symbolism (“Mr. Ralph Spencer, the phoenix that arose from Jimmy Valentine’s ashes???ashes left by the flame of a sudden and alterative attack of love???remained in Elmore, and prospered. ), personification (“…the waving green trees…” and “One afternoon Jimmy Valentine and his suit-case climbed out of the mail-hack in Elmore…”), metaphors (“There he tasted the first sweet joys of liberty in the shape of a broiled chicken…”), and similes (“Jimmy collared a boy that was loafing on the steps of the bank as if he were on of the stock-holders. ” ). These devices help the reader better understand the content. The reading was rather enjoyable, including many of my favorite literary genres: romance, mystery, suspense, and humor.
I have read the story before, and not only enjoyed it the second time, but also understood and picked up the use of figurative devices. The story was well-worded, and had an apparent use of vocabulary. O. Henry is known for twisted endings, turning the story around to a full 360??. “A Retrieved Reformation” is no exception, with its humorous conclusion. Jimmy Valentine was ready to turn his back on his second identity, Mr. Ralph Spencer after having rescued Agatha from the vault.
He greets Ben Price on his way out, assuming the detective would have arrested him for breaking into the vault. The detective pretends to not acknowledge Jimmy as the burglar, but addresses him as “Mr. Spencer. ” This particular twist explains how Ben Price has seen that Jimmy Valentine had redeemed himself, by rescuing Agatha from the vault. I liked the twist, because it showed that selfless acts of sacrifice have a way of redeeming oneself from previous acts of selfishness and greed.