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Those who have read The Four Million often agree that O. Henry has managed to paint quite a deep and intriguing depiction of New York’s everyday inhabitants, while also adding a touch of humor to his work. The stories, considered to be inspired by the remark of a man who said there were only 40 people worth writing for in New York, have showed just how many everyday elements, details and lessons the writer was capable of incorporating within a relatively short book.
One of the most interesting and moving stories in the collection is the well-known Gift of the Magi – the tale of a young couple giving up their possessions during the Christmas Holidays to buy each other presents. This classic story of sacrifice in love has moved many readers to tears, managing to even get numerous positive reviews from the harshest critics.
An Unfinished Story and Soapy are two other remarkable tales present in the book that add both drama and humor to the mix. The first criticizes the harshness of an underpaying employer, while the second tells the brilliant tale of a vagabond who keeps attempting to commit a crime solely for the purpose of getting a roof above his head and a meal in the local prison.
Probably the most common element that seems to unite the stories, showcasing the essence of what the writer was trying to convey, is the empty promise of the big city, New York being a place of glamour and suffering alike where not everyone is able to make it big, but also where the path laid down by the events in most people’s lives take on some of the most remarkable patterns.
This classic, insightful and simply unforgettable selection of stories was written by O. Henry almost 100 years ago, having been first published in 1906. Despite its age, it still remains to this day one of the most eye-opening, yet pleasant and harmonious works on the lives of regular people living in New York.