After Twenty Years



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“After Twenty Years”

Theme: How people change over time

RL3: Analyze how particular elements of a story interact.

Analyze how setting and characterization (description and dialogue) foreshadow an ironic ending.

First Read:

Frame: Ask students what they expect their lives to be like in twenty years. Discuss the factors that will determine their destinies (“destiny” appears in the text).

Read the story aloud or listen to the story from the CD in its entirety.

Second Read:

Reread chunks of the story to complete the flow map. Draw conclusions about O. Henry’s use of the elements to foreshadow the ironic end.

Possible Performance Tasks:



  • Write an explanation of O. Henry’s use of characterization or setting to foreshadow the story’s ironic ending.

  • Write in response to this prompt: When a friend does something you think is wrong, it creates an awkward situation. Think about different ways of handling the problem. What is likely to happen if you confront your friend directly and say what you think? What is likely to happen if you act as if nothing is wrong? Would you ever tell a parent or another adult about your friend? Why or why not?

  • If you are focusing on characterization of Bob when he lights his cigar:

    • Provide students with pictures of people, faces only. Have the students describe their physical features with as much detail as possible. Place students into small groups to share their writing and guess which picture matches the descriptions. You may connect this to the story by calling the pictures suspects and their descriptions as eyewitness accounts of a criminal the police need help locating. This activity will also work if students are writing their memoir and need to write a physical description of a character for a particular moment in their narrative.



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