Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Transients In Arcadia" (About Ordinary People)

I’ve had a respect for O. Henry ever since I read “The Ransom Of Red Chief” which has got to be the absolute funniest story of all time. When I read “The Last Leaf,” I decided that I had found an author worth checking into. (By the way, those of you who have not read “The Last Leaf” are missing out on one of the most gripping, skillfully written short stories written in the English language.) I bought a little book of his short stories about two years ago read it from cover to cover. Then I put it back on my shelf. Yesterday, for no reason at all, I took it down again and opened it up right to “Transients In Arcadia,” one story I didn’t remember very well. I didn’t plan on reading it but somehow I couldn’t tear myself away from that story. It was quite a simple little tale – there was no complex plot and not much action, to be sure, but somehow I found myself very wrapped up in it.

O. Henry begins the story by describing the dream hotel Lotus in a very idyllic way (with just a very little measure of sarcasm). He then goes on to praise a mysterious “Madame Beaumont,” the Lotus’ most illustrious guest.

“Now, isn’t that a wonderful beginning?”
“Yeah, it’s really great.” -The Princess Bride

This description continues for quite some time – long enough to give the reader a sort of respect for the afore-mentioned Madame Beaumont. Then, this magnificent “perfect woman” meets Mr. Harold Farrington, a seemingly respectable gentleman, and the two form a cordial relationship. Everything seems perfectly settled at this point and most readers would suppose that they were reading a “happily-ever-after” romance. However, the day before Madame Beaumont leaves the hotel, she tells Mr. Farrington a secret that changes the course of the story. I can’t tell you what the secret is because then you might not read the story for yourself, but I can assure you that O. Henry always lives up to his name, “The Master Of Surprise.”

I like this story because it reminds me of the real meaning of the phrase “ordinary people” but furthermore, because it reminds me that there are no ordinary people…and we all have hopes and dreams and ambitions - hurts and sorrows and tragedies.

Seize The Day!

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