O. Henry, Cabbages and Kings Book Review

downloadO. Henry ‘Cabbages and Kings’ offers an extraordinary read of different stories set in a Mexican Spanish island of Anchuria. It shows a disparity between expatriates from America, namely: New York and Columbia, and the natives.

The stories in the collection show the bizarre events that happen in a small town of Coralio, and O. Henry uses prose in the overall development of the plot. Using clever twist of events in the stories, well thought of language, and witty endings, Henry is able to provoke the reader to unravel the deeper meaning of the stories.

Overall View of O. Henry Cabbages and Kings

There are eighteen stories in the book, all which are set in the small coastal town of Coralio. The stories are well crafted, in that the storyline is centralised and remains the same throughout the book. There are some major events that happen in the collection, like the death of President Miraflores; the marriage of Dona Isabel Guilbert, who was born in New Orleans to Frank Goodwin: an American Investor, a month after the death of the President,  that contribute to the general development of the themes in the book.download (1)


Frank Goodwin receives a coded telegraph from his American friend Bob Englehart; a gold miner and a revolutionist, who lives in San Mateo: the capital city of Anchuri, and this creates a hullabaloo excitement in the small town of Coralio, for it is not everyday messages are wired. A small boy runs with the message, and Bill Keogh hushes the excitement by calling for Goodwill, who is smoking a cigarette with his friend the American Consul, Willard Geddie.

The telegraph informs Goodwin that there has been a revolution in the capital city, and the government has been overthrown. Following this, the President of Anchuri has run away with the treasury money together with an opera singer Dona Isabel Guilbert, and it is speculated that he will go to Coralio, where he will hopefully stay before boarding a ship to escape the country.

Goodwin is happy with this news, for he knows that he stands to get about 30,000 manzanas of the best coffee lands in the interior of the country. He shares the letter with Keogh, and he knowing that there are only two places that the president Miraflores can board a ship, namely: Solitas and Alazan, he suggest these two places be guarded. Further, since it is only possible to reach the coast through the road that runs through the jungle, hilltops and valleys, it would take about six days for him to reach the coastal town of Coralio, and this would gave them enough time to prepare for his capture. Goodwill decides to go to Dr. Zavalla, who will send someone to cut the telegraph so that no more news will reach the town concerning the escape, thus keeping the news of the President heading to Coralio a secret. Again he cautions Keogh to keep the whole affair a secret. As he walks down the street, he passes the house of Bernard Brannigan, where a young good-looking woman hangs over the rail and says hello to her. She is Miss Paula. She asks him whether there is any news, to which Goodwin lies with an air of indifference that there is not, citing that even the Consul, old Willard Geddie, is frustrated with boredom.images

The Lotus and the Bottle

Willard Geddie is in his office working, when Goodwill comes as usual to smoke with him. The twenty four year old Consul treats him with indifference; as a result, he leaves him working industriously on a report, which he will present to the America state that shows an increase in export by twenty percent. As the Consul contemplates on the report, presently a fruit Valhalla arrives for the Vesuvius company, and he goes out to the shoreline to carry out his daily inspection.

After talks with the custom office, he heads back to his apartment, then later on for breakfast, where he reads the newspaper. He learns that his past girlfriend: Miss Ida Payne would be coming from New York on board a yacht, but these news does not bother him, as he has his eyes fixated on Paula Brannigan: a native of Coralio, who he plans to marry, and who studied in New Orleans for two years, and has a taste of class compared to most girls in Coralio, and she is no different from the stylish girls of Manhattan or Norfolk. After breakfast, he returns to his office to work.

In the evening, Geddie walks along the beach and stumbles onto a cocked wine bottle that has a note inside. He fancies that it is from Ida Payne, who has sent him an anonymous letter with her initials, then thrown it to the sea for chance to bring it to him. He considers about the bottle deeply overnight, only to throw it away to the sea; after having kissed Paula, then afterwards realizing what the letter may have contained, he swims after it into the sea except he does not get it. In fact he is rescued by an old man with a boat in the sea, who tells one of the men on board to go call the doctor.images (1)

Language and Style in O. Henry, Cabbages and Kings

One of the things that fascinated me about this book is the language and style that O. Henry has used. The whole book is written in prose: combining long sentences with short ones; correct punctuation; imagery; simile and metaphors; parallelism, which makes it hard for one to conjecture outright what the stories talk about unless, re-read avidly. O. Henry style is unique in that his stories have a witty end, while at the same time his characters are fully developed rather impressively given the complex language used.

O. Henry is able to mix local dialect with English, which makes the stories to fit so well in the intended context of a small undeveloped coastal town in South America. Again the plot of the stories does not change, even when some characters like Keogh leave the immediate setting of Coralio for New York. This gives the stories a touch of authenticity and realism, in that they are analogous to a normal island where nothing really changes, like they were written when the author was actually living in this small town of Coralio and actually recording the live events as they unfolded.

Deeper Meaning in O. Henry, Cabbages and Kingsimages (2)

Well it may seem that the stories have ardently been artistically crafted; O. Henry showcases the lives of different people both expatriates and natives living in a colony country of Anchuria, where major importation of fruits and raw materials goes on. Coralio in the whole demonstrate a wider picture of a country, which foreigners live an exceptional good life investing in the different resources of the country like bananas and other fruits, which are exported to America, while the natives, uneducated and poor live a life of desolation and ignorance.

The theme of corruption is featured cleverly in the stories, for instance when the President of Anchuria, Miraflores shoots himself dead, the money that he had stolen from treasury is not found. Goodwin hides the money, and together with Isabel, who had accompanied the president and later he takes for a wife, steals the money, and even when a detective is sent to investigate how the money was lost, he is cautious in the way he asks questions to avoid offending anyone, and the puzzle of the lost money remains unsolved.

Using humor, O. Henry raises the question whether it is right or not to commit some actions. For instance, when Goodwin steals the money from the dead President, Blythe, an old drunkard, sees him commit the act. He fights within himself whether or not he should blackmail the businessman; a person who is respected by the community, and buys him drinks once in a while. Driven by thirst of alcohol, Blythe goes to Goodwin’s house and tells him that he saw him take the money that the president Miraflores had stolen from treasury, and if he gives him a thousand dollars, he will go away from Coralio and keep the whole affair a secret. Goodwin, himself a crafty investor, tells him to go all over town to the people he owned money to, tally the amount, and come back to him, and he will pay for all his debts and give him the money he asks for. Blythe is surprised by his rather warm response and he says right away he will do so, only after he gives him a drink. When he drinks, he says to himself that one cannot blackmail a person he drinks with and he abandons the whole affair.

O. Henry, Cabbages and Kings is a good read, that is intriguing in that one is left pondering on what the book talks about even after finishing reading.

3 Responses to “O. Henry, Cabbages and Kings Book Review”

  1. Caleb Ceballos says:

    I just finished reading Cabbages and Kings and I must say it was one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. I adored how O. Henry delivers a specific surrealism to the stories. One facet of the short story of the Graft was when a salesman sold watches with small bugs that gave off a certain buzz. Onomatopoeia is used quite well, and all the Characters throughout the stories have their certain flaw that really makes us dislike them. I love how I’m not sure what the entire book is about in whole. The ending was a trip! Definitely would want to read this beauty again!

    • Hello Caleb,
      Thank you for your comments. It is truly an exceptional book. The book essentially is about life in a small island of Coralio. Thank you for reading the review, please be coming back for more of such reviews. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.


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