The Role of Space, Money, and Travel in O. Henry's New York Stories

Date

2017-08

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Abstract

The aim of my dissertation is to contend that O. Henry deserves a higher place in literary history than previously given to him by critics. Although most critics dismiss him as a popular writer who operates mainly on formulas to get to his signature “surprise ending,” these formulas are really a subtle means used not only to critique social norms, but also to suggest social changes that need to be made at the turn of the twentieth century in America. In order to argue this, I grouped thirty of O. Henry’s New York short stories, the bulk of which contain female characters, into themes of space, money, and travel. My dissertation provides a study of the literary representations of New York City, particularly with regards to these three thematic elements and the way female characters in his stories grappled with these themes, as well as how society dealt with such female characters in the context of space, money, and travel. Through close readings and computational analysis of these stories, I discovered O. Henry was a writer who was seriously committed to social reform in America at the turn of the century, especially with regards to women.

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Henry, O., 1862-1910, New York (N.Y.), Women in literature, Space in literature, Money in literature, Travel in literature

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©2017 The Author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Eugene McDermott Library. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.

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