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Hearts And Hands Short Story Theme

As they passed down the aisle of the coach.owner was accustomed to speak and be heard. He died in 1910 of cirrhosis of the liver, complications of diabetes, and an enlarged heart. The funeral was held in New York City, but he was buried in North Carolina, the state where he was born. He was a gifted short story writer and left us a rich legacy of great stories to enjoy. Enjoy some illustrated Short Stories from O. Henry; click to. HEARTS AND HAND THEME OF THE STORY Ο The main theme of the story was compassion and disguise. Ο The actual Marshall was thought to be the criminal and Mr. Easton who was the actual criminal was though to be the Marshall. Ο This shows that outward appearances are always decepted. In many of his stories, O. Colbie caillat breakthrough album covers. Henry holds the universal romanticized wish that people are intrinsically good and unselfish. This wish is exploited in the short story “Hearts and Hands.” In fact, the title of this story suggests the theme that people will display “heart,”or kindness, for others with no self-interest.

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Hearts and Hands Story Summary by O. Henry

Hearts and Hands Summary by O. Henry About the Author

O. Henry was an American writer whose actual name was William Sydney Porter. His short stories are known for wit, wordplay, humor and twisted endings. He was born on 11th September, 1862 in Greensboro, North Carolina. His father, Algernon Sidney Porter, was a medical doctor. When he was only three years old, his mother died and his grandmother and aunt raised him. He left the school at the age of 15 and did many jobs.

In 1896 he was accused of embezzlement. He was sentenced for five years in jail. While in prison, he began writing short stories and his first published story was Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking in 1899. He used a pseudonym, Olivier Henry, only to hide his identity as he did not want his readers to know that he was in jail. His twelve stories were published when he was in prison.

Hearts And Hands Short Story Theme

He was released from jail only in three years because of his good behavior. He moved to New York City in 1902 and wrote a story a week for the New York World. His first collection of stories was Cabbages and Kings and the next collection was The Four Million. His success brought excessive pressure and he suffered from alcohol addiction. He died of cirrhosis of the liver on 5th June, 1910 in New York.

Hearts and Hands Summary of the story

“Hearts and Hands” by O. Henry is a short story which describes the encounter of two acquaintances, Miss Fairchild and Mr. Easton. The story is set on a train to Denver. A very pretty young woman named, Miss Fairchild is sitting in one coach. Mean while two men enter the coach who are handcuffed to one another.

Miss Fairchild greets one of them who she must know well and when she finds him bound at the wrist by shining bracelet to his companion, her smile changes to that of bewilderment. The glum faced man with the Easton senses his embarrassment and gives an explanation, he tells that Easton is a marshal and he is taking him to Leavenworth prison. Its seven years for counterfeiting.

With the advancement of conversation, Mr. Easton tells that he prefers to become marshal in West rather than life in Washington. The young woman finds it fascinating but continues to look upon the glittering handcuffs. To comfort her, the other man tells her that the marshals handcuff themselves to the prisoners to prevent them from escaping. After this, the glum faced man wishes to smoke and both leaves for the smoker and the pretty woman bids goodbye to Mr. Easton.After they are gone, one of the two passengers sitting nearby remarks on Easton’s looks that he seems too young to be marshal. He then exclaims that Mr. Easton is the counterfeit by saying that,” Did you ever know an officer to handcuff a prisoner to his right hand?”


Looking at the title of the story one must have the opinion that the theme will display heart, means the selfless kindness. But the theme is that, ‘sometimes looks can be deceiving’. One must not jump to the conclusion randomly. Another theme is that of compassion showed by the ruffled Marshal who had sympathetic consciousness for Easton. The irony at the end of the story makes it more interesting.

The setting of the story is in a train to Denver. A glum faced man introduces Mr. Easton as the marshal to ease the pretty woman’s doubt on seeing him handcuffed. She is relieved to know that he is not a prisoner. He speaks on his behalf on reaching Leavenworth prison, which displays his kindness. He also saves Easton from getting humiliated in front of the pretty lady. He does not care for his own prestige.

There is a blast of irony here. Mr. Easton who is handsome and good looking is criminal whereas glum-faced, rough looking, heavily built man is Marshal. That’s why when the real Marshal tells the lady that he is the criminal and is being taken to prison by Mr. Easton who is the Marshal, she quickly believes. She doesn’t notice that Easton’s right hand is handcuffed.

The twist appears in the end when the two co-passengers remark that Easton is the counterfeit and the other man is the true marshal and. This situation is not at all expected by the readers and it deepens the mystery. Therefore it is suggested that often jumping to quick conclusions results in ignoring the truth.

Hearts and Hands Summary Characters

Miss Fairchild

She is a pretty young woman with a lovely smile and remarkable dressing sense. She seems to be a smart and elegant woman with a fascination for travelling. Her travelling experience is obvious from all the luxurious comforts she is surrounded by. Her hands are covered with gloves. Her voice is sweet and there is a tender pink colour on her cheeks when she smiles.

But at the same time she possesses the quality of arrogance which is obvious when she asks Mr. Easton to be given the opportunity to speak: first. She seems to be interested in handsome Mr. Easton that’s why she starts conversation with him. She is astonished to see him handcuffed with another rough looking man. Rather she is horrified. But she is so much attracted towards him that there is no place of doubt in her mind.

When she is told that Mr. Easton is the Marshal and the other ruffled man is the convict, she feels relieved. It shows her innocence that she believes in whatever the glum faced man tells her. She assumes Mr. Easton to be the hero when she says, “And so now you are one of these dashing Western heroes”. On his being talking about his butterfly days, she thinks that he is talking about his free days. She also shows her interest in West when she comes to know that he

is settled in West. She is more socialite than emotional. When her father was ill, she didn’t go to see him, rather she preferred to remain in Denver. Mr. Easton He is handsome with a bold, honest face. It misleads the readers and they think that he is a real Marshal. He knows Miss Fairchild since he was in Washington. When he enters the coach, he hears a familiar voice of Miss Fairchild, initially he feels embarrassed as he is handcuffed but soon he rouses and shakes off his embarrassment and clasps her fingers with his left hand and speaks to her with a smile on his face.

Easton is clever enough to manipulate things. As soon as he sees the expression of horror on her face, he immediately changes his expression. He tells the young woman that he has discarded the Washington life to become a Marshal in West. But being guilty he becomes more and more conscious with the advancement of conversation with Miss Fairchild.

He knows that it won’t be possible for him to carry on their relationship further as she is more a social animal and materialistic than a realistic person. He ironically replies her that his butterfly days are over which means that he will be put in prison later and not be free whereas Miss Fairchild thinks that he is talking in general. He is sentenced to seven years of imprisonment in Leavenworth prison for counterfeiting. He is handcuffed by his right hand. This is another irony that he is handsome and charming but a criminal.



He is ruffled, glum faced person who is heavily built and roughly dressed. But he is compassionate and kind hearted. He is hand cuffed by his left hand with the criminal which is another example of irony. He pretends to be the prisoner in order to save Mr. Easton from embarrassment in front of Miss. Fairchild. He has a good judgmental quality of human behavior. He is witty to sense the embarrassment felt by Mr. Easton and so delivers an explanation on his behalf.

He tells Miss Fairchild that all the Marshals handcuff themselves to their prisoners to keep them from getting away when she continues to stare at the handcuffs. He does not want to humiliate Easton in front of an old friend and even doesn’t care for his own reputation. At one point when the conversation between Mr. Easton and Miss. Fairchild is going on, he remains quiet and listens to them calmly and at a situation when he thinks that Easton might not reveal the truth mistakenly, he takes an excuse and goes along with him in the smoker room. This shows his humbleness and large heartedness.

Hearts and Hands Summary Word-Meanings

  1. influx – arrival of large number of people
  2. elegant – graceful and stylish
  3. countenance – facial expression
  4. ruffled – upset
  5. aisle – a passage between rows of seats
  6. tingeing – slight coloring
  7. proclaimed – announced something publically
  8. accustomed – used to
  9. embarrassment – awkard feeling
  10. clasped – grasp something tightly
  11. bewildered – puzzled or confused
  12. vague – not clearly explained
  13. forestalled – prevent by taking action first
  14. veiled glances – indirect looks
  15. pen – enclosure, prison
  16. counterfeiting – forging
  17. petition – an appeal or request specially a written one
  18. sidled – advance in a timid way.

Some writers write stories not to tell a tale but for the thrill of surprises that only words can offer. In the story, Hearts and Hands, the author presents characters who cross-paths and strike up a seemingly innocent conversation. These characters are oblivious and they are simply surging with the optimism of youth and still exploring their own individual identity. For instance, Ms. Fairchild who believes that she has known Mr. Easton for many years and considers him to be an old friend, has no idea about Mr. Easton’s current predicament. In fact, the readers and the passengers on the train, who are not blindfolded by familiarity, know more about him than she does.

Also the title of the story is absolutely fitting as it symbolizes both the appeal of the young woman and the kindness of the marshal for the character of Easton. It has a rhythmic ring to it when said out loud and makes the reader curious about the story. There are at least three to four different perspectives of the same incident in the story and it’s the diversity that these characters present which makes it such a vibrant and endearing tale. The two handcuffed men, even in their physical description provide a contrast where one is handsome and frank and the other is heavily built and glum. The beauty of the writing lies in the fact that despite these outward differences they share an understanding which is rare and yet universal.

The protector of the law and the criminal offender are linked to each other with something more abstract than just the steel handcuffs. The marshal treated the prisoner like a friend, saving him from embarrassment by lying to the lady for him. He could have easily given him up for what he really is but he respected him as a person, who had an identity above and over being a criminal. The kind officer could guess that the girl and her opinion of the man she knew in the past could mean something to the prisoner and so he gave him his one private moment of past glory before continuing on with his duty of deporting the criminal.

Compassion when received from completely unexpected sources can warm our hearts and make us want to be a better person. A promise of the pretty girl’s interest him and the kind gesture of the marshal might have possibly motivated the criminal to want to live a better and more responsible life in the future.

Hearts and Hands Themes by O. Henry

Hearts And Hands Short Story Summary

The story, Hearts and Hands<>< a=' /> style=”font-weight: 400;”>, has an underlying theme of the truth versus the lie. It speaks about how appearances can be deceiving and that a small harmless ruse can also brighten up a person’s day. We have been taught that the truth is the ultimate definition of goodness and purity of emotion. However, the character of the grumpy marshal, whom the readers at first believed to be a ruthless criminal, was in reality a nice person who could show kindness to someone who was a perpetrator of illegal actions. < />

Hence, we can conclude that the basic theme of the story is the unreliability of appearances and that we should give everyone a chance through an act of kindness even when it’s difficult or unnecessary to do so.

Hearts and Hands Character Sketch by O. Henry

Apart from the three main characters the story presents interesting side characters, as the passengers and on lookers of the train have a personality of their own. It’s through their observation and gossip only that the readers come to know about who the actual culprit was. Otherwise, just based on presentation and the ensuing conversation who could have guessed that Mr. Easton is not the marshal but the criminal? The readers were also fooled just like the young and beautiful and gullible Ms. Fairfax. Her character in the story is a vital aspect in the development of the plot. Her beauty has been described with great care by the author to create the accurate impression about her in the minds of the reader.

She was the kind of girl who was accustomed to attention and good living. Brought up within a veil of high society she could not contemplate a life of misadventure or crime which Easton had definitely indulged in. Her demeanor exuded beauty and poise and she kept all to herself sitting on a side of the train until she came across the two men. She was frank enough to recognize Easton, despite the handcuffs and extended her hand to him in a sign of remembrance and friendship. She surely admired the handsome and bashful Mr. Easton whom she still thought to be a rich gentleman from past acquaintance. It was for their sake that the good old marshal intervened and presented himself to be the bad guy. Mr. Easton, though embarrassed was sly enough to play along with this ruse.


Hearts and hands short story summary

Easy Theme Short Story

The author O. Henry has created a unique place for himself in the field of literature and the charming personality which he brings to his writing is irresistible. His stories are both at once predictable and unpredictable. Predictable when, if the reader knows anything about the author, then they are definitely expecting a surprise ending and unpredictable because of the way he twists the tale at the very end, just when you are least expecting it. All in in all, his stories provide an interesting read and the story, Hearts and Hands is no exception.