Give a character sketch of the character Ms. Fairchild in O Henry’s short story “Hearts and Hands”.
In the story “Hearts and Hands” Ms. Fairchild is depicted as an outwardly sophisticated and luxurious pretty young lady. She has elegant taste and a habit of travelling by train. Her initial glance of ‘distant, swift disinterest’ in the two men is proof enough of her proud nature.
But as soon as she recognizes Mr. Easton, she is reminded of her happy past with him and starts chatting with her old friend rather easily. She is horrified when she sees the handcuffs and again relieved when the second man assures that Mr. Easton is the marshal and he is the convict.
As the story progresses, we see Ms. Fairchild’s interest in Mr. Easton. She literally flirts with him. She tells Mr. Easton that the Washington crowd has missed him. The moment Easton says that he loves his life in the West, she doesn’t hesitate to say that she too loves the West and wants to live there —
“I love the west”, says the girl irrelevantly.
“I could live and be happy in the West…”
So, the narrator too gives a hint at the lack of integrity in her character by using the word ‘irrelevantly’. This gap is also found in her saying that “Money isn’t everything”, though it seems that she actually loves the wealth and rank of Mr. Easton. Her lack of a clean heart is evident also in her shifting interest in building the old relationship with Mr. Easton again, as “the ambassador doesn’t call any more”.
Ms. Fairchild makes almost an ironical statement when she says —
…people always misunderstand things and remain stupid.
She has no knowledge that she herself has been fooled by the two men. She doesn’t even understand what Easton means when he says that his ‘butterfly days’ in Washington are over. So, she has been an average woman with average intellectual capacity.
It is also evident from her own revelation that she was not-so-caring for others. She spent her time at Denver when her mother went home a week before to see her sick father.
Going by the above discussions, Ms, Fairchild is presented as a typical apparently-sophisticated woman with all her vanity and moral loss. Though she pretends to be quite above others in dignity, she is actually at par with her mere interest of enjoying life.