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 rendering of the principal character’s thoughts and actions. The story opens with a general observation of the disparity between temporal expanse and one’s consciousness of it, subsequently relating it to Trysdale’s present state. This helps him to provide a retrospective account of Trysdale’s amorous encounters his defeat and sense of despair. However, the account itself is not entirely objective as it is focalized through Trysdale. It becomes a revelation for Trysdale as he finds himself responsible for his suffering: “ He saw all the garbs of pretence and egoism that he had worn now turn to rags of folly.” At the same time, the author rouses the readers’ curiosity as to why the affair could not work!

The lady-love is portrayed with every conventional “feminine grace”- modest, childlike, worshipful and sincere. The descriptions, evocative of the Petrarchan Courtly tradition, are ironically, an inversion of the same tradition.this is because, it is the man who is placed on the pedestal and the woman becomes the adoring worshipper. This could have been a possible reason for the disastrous outcome, for it only enhanced Trysdale’s vanity.

Just when the readers begin to accept Trysdale’s high-handed attitude as the probable...
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