Theme of appearance vs reality in the story “Hearts and Hands”.

QuestionsTheme of appearance vs reality in the story “Hearts and Hands”.
Priyanka Patil asked 6 years ago

Appearance can be deceptive. How is this theme employed in the short story “Hearts and Hands” by O. Henry?

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1 Answers
Staff answered 6 years ago

The story “Hearts and Hands” reminds us of the old lesson that appearances can be deceptive. In fact, this has been the main point of the story which begins when an elegant-looking young lady named Miss Fairchild meets by chance her old pal Mr. Easton in a train compartment in the West. Soon after, she discovers that Easton’s right hand is handcuffed to the left hand of another man. At once, she fears that Mr. Easton might have been involved in some criminal activity and so is arrested.

Sensing Mr. Easton’s embarrassment, the second man comes to his rescue by explaining that Mr. Easton is a marshal who is taking him to Leavenworth prison as he has got seven years of jail term for counterfeiting. At once, she recovers from the “bewildered horror” with “a deep breath and returning color”. This is the moment Miss Fairchild probably senses how appearances can be deceptive. Interestingly, she didn’t know that it was actually a part of a larger deception.

Since then she seems to get going well with Mr. Easton. When Miss Fairchild tries to get closer with Easton and says that she also likes the West

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and would like to live there, the second man demands that he must be taken to the smoker now as he hasn’t had a smoke all day. So, Mr. Easton rises and leaves with that man bidding good-bye to the woman.

After they leave, a passenger sitting nearby comments that he has never seen an officer to handcuff a prisoner to his right hand. This is when we finally realise that in reality the glum-faced man was the officer and Mr. Easton was the prisoner. Miss Fairchild’s initial fear proves to be true. But she will never know the truth that we, the readers, know.

Until the last line of the story, who would have thought that Mr. Easton is not the marshal, but the criminal? This twist in the end not only makes the story interesting, but also delivers the message that things should not always be taken at the face value.

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