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O Henry’s Furnished Room sample essay

The short story is about a young man searching for his love in a furnished room. He meets the owner of the furnished room that his love has rented recently. In the latter part of the story, the young man commits suicide in the same room where his love committed suicide, too. Moreover, the landlady tells to a friend that she knows the girl that the young man is looking for but she does not tell him because she is greatly taking care of her reputation and her business. She wants no one to know that someone committed suicide on her room because it won’t attract lodgers.


This paper aims to analyze some stylistic features of O.Henry’s short story “the Furnished Room”, in order to make further analysis of O.Henry’s particular writing style and its specific effect. The short story was written not just to appraise the young man’s true love to his beloved but to reveal the truth that the capital society makes people cold-hearted. People in that society tends to be indifferent and cruel. They are the ones who LITERALLY mind their own businesses.


1. Lexical features and the according effects Adjectives Most of the vocabularies in the story are simple and easy to understand. But it’s obvious that the author also employs many complicated and abstract words, especially the adjectives, in order to create the complex atmosphere in the story. For example, when the author describes the room which the young man rents , large amount of adjectives like “faint ,sunless, viscid, unholy, rank, foul and tainted, haggard, perfunctory, sophistical, ragged, gilt, gay-papered, desolate, musty, dank, cold…” are used. They can bring visual imaginary and aid the description of the room and the things in it. Actually many of these adjectives are not common words and it’s a little difficult for the reader to understand them. The propose of using these vocabulary may be the author’s intention to let the reader to have a authentic feel of that room and the whole society. Complex word may help produce this kind of feeling.

Noun Phrases

One main character of the story is Mrs. Purdy, the landlady. The author tries to describe her in details using some specific noun phrases, such as “an unwholesome, surfeited worm; her throat seemed lined with fur; furry throat…” Through that way more information of the landlady is added and a vivid figure of a disgusting woman was shown. This ugly appearance of the landlady can really provide a background of her hardheartedness mentioned later.

2. Syntactic features and the according effects

This article contains various types of sentences, both simple and complex structure. The author uses not only declarative, but also “inverted sentences, subjunctive mood, indirect speech…”, aiming to achieve particular effect, such as to emphasize someone or something. Take the specific followings for example: (1) “ Restless, shifting, fugacious as time itself, is a certain vast bulk of the population of the redbrick district of the lower West Side.” The “first is most important” principle is employed here. At the beginning of the passage, the author uses syntactic inversion to emphasize the unstable atmosphere of the district, aiming to present the background of the whole story at the first sentence. (2) “… it would be strange if there could not be found a ghost or two in the wake of all these vagrant ghosts.” The subjunctive mood here shows the author’ attitude towards the real world and emphasizes the cruel reality of the society. (3)

“To the door of this, the twelfth house whose bell he had rung, came a housekeeper who made him think of an unwholesome, surfeited worm that had eaten its nut to a hollow shell and now sought to fill the vacancy with edible lodgers. This sentence is rather long and complex, including one inverted sentence and three attributive clauses. The complexity is helpful for the description as it gives and withholds information. The step-by-step revelation can make the sentence coherent and close linked. The reader can be deeply impressed of the situation it describes. (4) “They comes and goes…”; “we has our living to be making…” (the landlady) The short form and grammatical mistake of these sentences prove that the landlady is not actually well-educated and her utterances can reveal her real character to the readers.

3. Phonological features and the according effects

In the view of phonology, the story has a specific feature produced by the character of Mrs. McCool, the landlady’s friend. She speaks with non-standard English and sounds strange. (1) “Now, did ye, Mrs. Purdy, ma’am?” said Mrs. McCool, with intense admiration. “You do be a wonder forrentin’ rooms of that kind. And did ye tell him, then?” (2) “Yis, ma’am; ’tis true. ‘Tis just one wake ago this day I helped ye lay out the third floor, back. A pretty slip of a colleen she was to be killin’ herself wid the gas Compared with Mrs. Purdy, Mrs. McCool speaks with non-standard English which is full of grammatical mistakes. The underlined words show some features of “Black English Vernacular. It implies that maybe she is poor-educated and simple-minded. Her social status can aid with making up the background of the story.

4. Semantic features/figures of speech and the according effects

The use of characteristic figures of speech in this article is frequent and effective. Obviously the rhetorical devices here can make the description more realistic and impressing. Take some examples from the story for support. (1) “their vine is entwined about a picture hat; a rubber plant is their fig tree.” Traditionally “vine” and “fig tree” are often planted in house yard and here they stand for stable and happy family life. The author uses metaphor to show peoples’ eager for happy family life, which is not restless any more. (2) “…a housekeeper who made him think of an unwholesome, surfeited worm that had eaten its nut to a hollow shell and now sought to fill the vacancy with edible lodgers.” The author describes the landlady as a “worm” in order to dram a vivid picture of a greedy woman who always hungers for profit. The employment of animizing produces special effect which may make the reader smile and impressed.

(3) “It seemed to have become vegetable; to have degenerated in that rank, sunless air to lush Lichen or spreading moss The carpet in the room are said to become “vegetable, lichen and moss”, which are disgusting things. What the atmosphere of the room is like can be clearly shown through that metaphor.

(4) “… but it was like a monstrous quicksand, shifting its particles constantly, with no foundation, its upper granules of to-day buried to-morrow in ooze and slime.” The simile here is quite obvious which compare the city as “quicksand”. It draws a real picture of the cruel city and society which is a heaven and also a hell. The reader may understand why the hero of the story feels desperate and commits suicide hopelessly.

CONCLUSION Through the analysis of the stylistic features of O. Henry’s short story “the Furnished Room”, it can help the reader more understand the writing style of the author. The author uses specific adjectives and phrase to emphasize his description; employs some complex sentences to achieve particular effect; employs some rhetorical devices, such as figures of speech, to make his story more, picturesque; also use the special way of “surprise ending” to produces the irony and surprising effect at the end of the story.

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