Spring Time by O. Henry — Explanation
Springtime by O. Henry …. Story Explanation and Summary …
About the author .…. As a short story writer, O. Henry (1862-1910) towers over most other American writers. Some critics compare him with Guy de Maupassant of France. Both were highly prolific writers, immensely popular with their countless readers. Both of them wrote hundreds of very gripping stories with dramatic plots. Henry’s wit, characterization and plot twists were adored by his readers, but often derided by critics.
O. Henry’s stories generally have surprise endings catching the readers totally unawares. Compared to Guy de Maupassant, O. Henry’s stories are much more playful. Witty narration and abrupt turn of events are the hallmarks of his style.
Most of O. Henry’s stories are set in the early 20th century. Many are based on innocuous events in New York City and revolve around ordinary people — clerks, policemen, waitresses, etc.
The Story …
Spring Time is one such story that has a girl typist and a young farmer as the two protagonists.
Sarah is a young girl living in New York. With her rudimentary typing skill, she struggles to make a living in New York. A decent well-paying job in New York has eluded her. She does some freelance typing job here and there to eke out a living. She lives in a red brick low-rent dormitory.
Close to the dormitory, there is the Schulenberg’s restaurant. She eats there regularly. The restaurant has many different items in its menu. The list of items in offer changes on a day-to-day basis. There are 20 tables in the restaurant. At the start of the day, the owner decides the menu, and writes out hurriedly on the menu card for each table. Thus, he has to write the same thing twenty times. This was a tedious job done by hand. There were no computers, printers or photocopiers those days. Quite understandably, the handwriting becomes unreadable. This must have been vexing for the customers.
On one occasion, after having her dinner, Sarah hit upon an idea. She tells the owner of the Schulenberg’s restaurant that it will be a good idea to have the menu neatly typed for the convenience of the customers. The owner quickly agrees and offers to provide three meals everyday to Sarah as compensation for the menu typing she would do for the restaurant.
The deal is done. Sarah types the twenty sets of menu daily, and the meals come to her room promptly at three different times a day. Courteous waiters fetch her the food.
That year, the winter lingers, not yielding place to spring that is due. Sarah feels uncomfortable as the dormitory is cold and damp. On one day, Sarah has no outside typing job to do except the menu-typing work. She feels bored and forlorn.
One year earlier, in the summer, she had gone to the countryside on a sojourn. There she had stayed in a farm. The owner had a young son named Walters. Sarah and Walters fell in love with each other. The love blossomed, and they decided to marry a year after – in the next spring.
Now, the spring was not coming as per schedule. Winter had lingered, leaving Sarah frustrated and angry.
To make her agony worse, there is no news from Walters. Nor has any letter come from him. Sarah pines for Walters. The wait frays her patience. The lonely time proves to be very depressing for Sarah.
With Walter’s memory tormenting her ceaselessly, one day, she begins her typing work. There is an item in the menu that read Dandelion with Egg. Sarah’s heart is heavy with despondency as she settles down to start her work. Tears flow down from her eyes. She can barely hold them back. The word dandelion brought a rush of memories of Walter. He had seen dandelion – the flower of love – in Sarah’s face. Sarah is totally lost in the memory of her lover, Walters.
Inadvertently, while typing her first menu card, Sarah types the single letter ‘W’ above the word dandelion in the menu card.
At 6 o’clock that day, the waiter brings her dinner and carries away the typewritten bill of fare. When Sarah begins to eat, she sets aside, with a sigh, the dish of Dandelions with Egg. The dish plunges her mind in a whirlpool of emotions. The dandelion triggers the turmoil in her mind. She becomes too grief-stricken to eat the dish.
There was some chaotic din in Sarah’s dormitory. To cut off the noise and keep the waves of unhappy feelings at bay, she begins to read a book ‘The Cloister and the Hearth’. And then a strong voice is heard in the hall below, and Sarah rushes to her door. What a pleasant surprise it was for her! She rubs her eyes in disbelief to discover that it was Walters. They are lost in their embrace. Sarah soon gets to know that Walters has spent a whole week trying to locate her. Finally, he has spotted her. During their conversation, it emerges that her letter informing Walters about her new address had somehow not reached him.
Walter has come looking for his sweet heart.
By some coincidence, Walter has come into the same Home restaurant whose menu cards Sarah typed. While looking through the card, Walters’s eyes had fallen on the item Dandelion with Egg. And his eyes have fallen on the out-of-place letter ‘W’ on the menu card. It was the surest sign that the lovelorn Sarah had typed it. Trough the owner’s help, he lands in Sarah’s room.
For Sarah and Walters, it is a God-sent gift.