Discussing O. Henry’s “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen”
November 21, 2018 | Maredith Sheridan
Image: Grandma Moses, Catching the Thanksgiving Turkey, 1943, [Fair Use] via WikiArt.org
At Books@Work, we use literature to generate meaningful conversation, bridge divides and encourage human connection. This Thanksgiving week, we invite you to grab a friend or family member to read and discuss O. Henry’s classic story “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” together.
O. Henry is one of the most beloved short story writers in American history. His stories are known for their wit and playfulness, often featuring misunderstandings and surprise endings. Born in North Carolina in 1862, O. Henry later moved to New York, using Manhattan and its societal divisions as fodder for his fiction. Henry is the namesake for the prestigious O. Henry Prize, awarded annually to the most outstanding published short story of the year.
As you read O. Henry’s “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen,” consider these questions:
- Is Thanksgiving the only “purely American” holiday?
- Why are traditions and rituals so important to us?
- Why do we feel compelled to accept help when it’s offered? Is charity always good?
Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen
By O. Henry
There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Bless the day. President Roosevelt gives it to us. We hear some talk of the Puritans, but don’t just remember who they were. Bet we can lick ’em, anyhow, if they try to land again. Plymouth Rocks? Well, that sounds more familiar. Lots of us have had to come down to hens since the Turkey Trust got its work in. But somebody in Washington is leaking out advance information to ’em about these Thanksgiving proclamations.
The big city east of the cranberry bogs has made Thanksgiving Day an institution. The last Thursday in November is the only day in the year on which it recognizes the part of America lying across the ferries. It is the one day that is purely American. Yes, a day of celebration, exclusively American.
And now for the story which is to prove to you that we have traditions on this side of the ocean that are becoming older at a much rapider rate than those of England are – thanks to our git-up and enterprise.
Stuffy Pete took his seat on the third bench to the right as you enter Union Square, at the walk opposite the fountain. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years he had taken his seat there promptly at 1 o’clock. For every time he had done so things had happened to him – Charles Dickensy things that swelled his waistcoat above his heart, and equally on the other side.