Which characteristic does the marshal reveal by choosing to lie for Mr. Easton? How does this depict the overall theme of the story “Hearts and Hands” by O. Henry?
In O. Henry’s story “Hearts and Hands”, the marshal’s lie to save Mr. Easton from embarrassment reveals his humane nature and sympathy for others, even for a criminal. Moreover, it is all about his common sense and the presence of mind. [You may read the complete character sketch of the marshal. ]
The marshal’s lie for Mr. Easton indicates to the theme of deception — deceitful nature of appearance — appearance versus reality.
Almost everyone present there including Miss Fairchild was deceived by the duo of the marshal and Mr. Easton into believing that Mr. Easton was the actual marshal. Only one passenger could get hold of the catch. In the very last sentence of the story he commented —
Say — did you ever know an officer to handcuffed a prisoner to his right hand?
It was the common sense and his presence of mind which let him know the actual truth while others including the readers were befooled.
The Marshal, in the story- Hearts and Hands, has played a role of concern towards the friendship of Miss Fairchild and Mr. Easton. The entire story is built up on the basis of this concern itself.
The Marshal does not want the friendship between Easton and Fairchild to be disturbed in any manner. He does not want Fairchild to develop a bad opinion about Easton. So, he takes the blame of doing forgery and tries to somehow manage the role of culprit. It is upto an extent that even the people travelling in the train tend to believe that the real Marshal is the culprit.
Conclusion: The role of Marshal is the most important one in the story. He is a clever and also compassionate person i.e. he gives respect to relationships. Probably, no police would have done this kind of job…