After Twenty Years
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4.03 / 5

"After Twenty Years" Summary

By O. Henry

short stories | 20 pages | Published in NaN

The skill of the legendary master of the twist ending in short stories is perhaps nowhere better exemplified than in his 'After Twenty Years.'


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

Two friends plan to meet after twenty years, but unexpected events lead to a surprising outcome.


"After Twenty Years" is a short story by O. Henry, first published in 1906. It is a classic tale of friendship, loyalty, and the passage of time. The story revolves around a planned reunion of two friends who had made a pact to meet at a specific location after twenty years. O. Henry, known for his wit and surprise twist endings, delivers a poignant narrative that explores the themes of trust, nostalgia, and the impact of choices.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

"After Twenty Years" takes place on a dark, deserted street in New York City. Jimmy Wells and Bob are two old friends who had made a pact to meet at a specific location after twenty years. Bob arrives at the rendezvous, eagerly anticipating the reunion. As he waits, a police officer approaches and strikes up a conversation with him. Bob reveals his intentions to meet his old friend, and the officer expresses curiosity about their history. As the conversation unfolds, a surprising revelation awaits both Bob and the readers.


The story unfolds in the bustling city of New York, with the primary setting being a dimly lit, deserted street where the long-awaited reunion is supposed to take place. The urban environment serves as a backdrop to the characters' emotions and the passage of time.

Main Characters

The story features two main characters:

BobA man who eagerly awaits a reunion with his old friend, Jimmy Wells. He is nostalgic and hopeful about their meeting.
Jimmy WellsBob's old friend, who had promised to meet him after twenty years. His absence raises questions and piques the curiosity of the readers.

Summary of Different Story Points over Chapters

The Long-Awaited Reunion

Bob arrives at the designated spot, his heart brimming with anticipation and nostalgia. As he waits, a police officer strikes up a conversation with him, leading to a discussion about their old friendship and the significance of the impending reunion.

Unforeseen Revelations

As Bob shares details about his friend Jimmy, the police officer becomes increasingly intrigued. Eventually, a startling revelation unfolds, altering the course of the anticipated reunion and shedding light on the impact of the passing years.

Main Events

  1. Bob arrives at the rendezvous, filled with anticipation and nostalgia.
  2. A police officer engages Bob in a conversation, expressing interest in his story.
  3. Bob shares details about his old friend Jimmy, leading to a surprising revelation.

Themes and Insights

Trust and Betrayal

The story delves into the themes of trust and betrayal, highlighting how circumstances and time can alter perceptions and relationships. The unexpected turn of events prompts reflection on the nature of trust and the impact of choices made in the past.

Nostalgia and Regret

Nostalgia and regret are prominent themes in the narrative, evoking a sense of longing for the past and the roads not taken. The characters' emotions and the revelation underscore the bittersweet nature of reminiscence and the passage of time.

Reader's Takeaway

"After Twenty Years" captivates readers with its exploration of friendship, trust, and the complexities of human emotions. The unexpected twist challenges perceptions and leaves a lasting impression, prompting reflection on the enduring impact of choices and the passage of time.


O. Henry's "After Twenty Years" is a timeless tale that resonates with readers through its exploration of friendship, trust, and the consequences of the passage of time. The story's surprising twist and poignant themes leave a lasting impression, making it a compelling read for audiences seeking a thought-provoking narrative.

After Twenty Years FAQ

  1. What is the plot of 'After Twenty Years'?

    The plot revolves around two friends who plan to meet at a specific location after twenty years. When they finally meet, they realize how their lives have changed and the impact of time on their friendship.

  2. Who is the author of 'After Twenty Years'?

    The author of 'After Twenty Years' is O. Henry, a renowned American writer known for his short stories.

  3. What is the theme of 'After Twenty Years'?

    The story explores themes of friendship, time, and the passage of years. It delves into the idea of how people and relationships change over time.

  4. Where is 'After Twenty Years' set?

    The story is set in New York City, particularly in the vicinity of a specific street corner where the friends arrange to meet after twenty years.

  5. What is the significance of the title 'After Twenty Years'?

    The title reflects the central premise of the story, highlighting the importance of the passage of time and the impact it has on the characters and their reunion.