After Twenty Years

"After Twenty Years" is a short story written by O. Henry, first published in his anthology, The Four Million in 1906.[1]


Jimmy Wells and Bob are the pivotal characters. Both of them were raised in New York and grew up as two brothers. However when Jimmy was 20 years old and Bob was 18 they separated.

Bob ventured to the west to make his fortune but Jimmy opted to stay in New York to do the same. For a couple of years the two friends communicated between themselves but subsequently they lost track of each other.

Bob and Jimmy Wells have an agreement to meet after twenty years on a particular spot near a restaurant. While Bob is waiting, a policeman arrives and they begin to talk as Bob boasts of how well he has fared meanwhile. Later, "Jimmy Wells" arrives and as they walk into a lighted area, Bob discovers that this is not the real Jimmy he knew. The man reveals himself to be a plain clothes policeman who arrests Bob, a wanted criminal. Before going to the police station, he gives Bob a letter from Jimmy. Bob reads it and realizes that the policeman who he met earlier was Jimmy Wells; in the letter, Jimmy states that he did not have the heart to arrest his own friend, hence he sent a plain clothes policeman to do so.

Media adaptations

  • It was included in a 1987 audiotape collection O. Henry Favorites by the Listening Library of Old Greenwich, Connecticut.
  • In 2001 it was one of five O. Henry stories included in the compact disc collection Classic American Short Stories, ready by William Roberts.[2]
  • The story was adapted into a 1989 short film also titled After Twenty Years produced by Coronet/MTI Film. The film starred Richard Keats and Glen Thompson.[1]

See also


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