Irony of Fate in O. Henry's Cactus

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For O. Henry, the short story was not just a literary act of communicating his artistic imagination, but also a vehicle to explore the extreme possibilities of such an endeavor. His stories are characterized by extreme unpredictability, transforming the genre into an active, pulsating living presence.”The Cactus” is no exception. The readers are , for the principal part of the story, invited into an assurance of predictable dullness when suddenly their trance is broken and they are awakened to a revelation. The most potent device that O.Henry uses to ensure that the readers go through such a climactic experience is the deft use of the narrative mode. He uses a third person limited narrative persona who is able to provide an objective…show more content…
Only one hint is provided, that, possibly this particular case of vanity was the source of Trysdale’s eventual crisis: “ He did not feel the prick of the thorn that was to pierce him later.” The next part of the story allows this metaphor of thorn to develop through a detailed account of the arrival of the cactus, sent without any note bearing only a tag with a strange botanical name. the final revelation comes only at the end when the readers come to know that the botanical name “Ventomarme” was worth a dozen love letters. However, Trysdale’s ignorance kept him from understanding the inviting message “come and take me”. The damage was complete when this ignorance was coupled with conceit. The final sentence puts the readers into a perplexing situation, despite the apparent humour of it. It becomes difficult to see Trysdale as only a rude chauvinist and one may even feel sympathetic for him. Short stories are not tragedies where mighty heroes fall from height and go through anagnorisis before the final donfall. Short stories provide chunks of real life where mediocre people fall for mediocre follies. The error of judgement on the part of Trysdale is not difficult to locate. Had he been a little less conceited, he could have confronted his beloved for a clear explanation about her “thorny” message. He chose pride over love and eventually lost both. O.Henry generously scatters symbolic messages throughout the text. Trysdale’s slow opening of

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