The Furnished Room by O. Henry

I loved The Furnished Room by O. Henry so much that I can’t not share some of it. The descriptions are so lush and vivid.

One by one, as the characters of a cryptograph become explicit, the little signs left by the furnished room’s procession of guests developed a significance. The threadbare space in the rug in front of the dresser told that lovely women had marched in the throng. Tiny finger prints on the wall spoke of little prisoners trying to feel their way to sun and air. A splattered stain, raying like the shadow of a bursting bomb, witnessed where a hurled glass or bottle had splintered with its contents against the wall. Across the pier glass had been scrawled with a diamond in staggering letters the name “Marie.” It seemed that the succession of dwellers in the furnished room had turned in fury – perhaps tempted beyond forbearance by its garish coldness – and wreaked upon it their passions. The furniture was chipped and bruised; the couch, distorted by bursting springs, seemed a horrible monster that had been slain during the stress of some grotesque convulsion. Some more potent upheaval had cloven a great slice from the marble mantel. Each plank in the floor owned its particular cant and shriek as from a separate and individual agony. It seemed incredible that all this malice and injury had been wrought upon the room by those who had called it for a time their home; and yet it may have been the cheated home instinct surviving blindly, the resentful rage at false household gods that had kindled their wrath. A hut that is our own we can sweep and adorn and cherish.

This description is exactly what Chekhov meant by ‘Don’t tell me that the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

The lodgers are no longer there; they may never have been there. The imprints the previous occupants have left behind scratch ghost memories into the fabric of the room, but they exist in full colour within our imaginations.

The point is to help the reader to see it for themselves, hint at a glimmer of beauty through sometimes sad or destructive mundanity. Suggestion sparks our minds alight.


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