The Municipal Report by O'Henry
To adequately analyze any short story it is helpful to know what inspired the author. Most readers do not have access to that kind of information especially if the work under inspection is over a hundred years old. But when that insight is available it gives one more important facet for investigation. “A Municipal Report” is a short story written by O’Henry and published around 1909. Most critics believe that the story came about as a challenge to Frank Norris who had written the following: Fancy a novel about Chicago or Buffalo, let us say, or Nashville, Tennessee! There are just three big cities in the United States that are "story cities"--New York, of course, New Orleans, and, best of the lot, San Francisco --- Frank Norris.
O’Henry opens “A Municipal Report” (hereafter AMR) with Norris’s quote and chooses as his setting a city that Norris rejected – Nashville, Tennessee. Setting: We start our analysis of this story with the setting because it is used as a main character throughout the text. O’Henry salts this story with geographical, encyclopedic and atlas types of description concerning the city in a semi regular manner for the entire duration of the manuscript. He also adds to the ambiance of this work by coloring the scene with uninviting weather and early evening deserted streets. In a way, O’Henry paints the setting with surprisingly dull colors – almost lulling his readers to sleep. This technique has the effect of mimicking the lazy southern flow of life. It also causes readers to form an initial impression that Frank Norris might be correct. This however, is a clever deception. O’Henry has a drama up his sleeve that will disprove Norris’s assumption as stated above. Point of View: This story is written from a first person point of view where the narrator is one of the characters in the story. Antagonist: Major Wentworth Caswell – Characteristics: a “rat” of a man; a “nuisance; loafer;” with the attitude...
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