A Service of Love by O. Henry
In A Service of Love by O. Henry we have the theme of love, art, desperation, connection and honesty. Taken from his Selected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story it becomes clear to the reader that Henry may be exploring the theme of love. Joe and Delia are very much in love with one another. They also love their art and as such pretend to each other that they are working for individuals who wish to utilize their art. Joe with his painting and Delia with her piano playing. The lie itself is important as it shows the depths that both characters will go to in order to persuade the other that everything is alright. That they are not as desperate as they really are. What is also interesting is that when the lie is discovered neither character is upset but rather realises the importance of their art to one another.
Though some critics might suggest a lie is a lie and it is unhelpful, particularly within a marriage. One should consider that both characters are lying for a good cause. They do not wish to upset one another and as such their love for their art (and one another) takes over. In an ideal world there would be work in the arts for both characters but if that was the case the reader would not see how deeply in love Joe and Delia are. It would be a one-sided affair with both characters devoted to their art. Whereas Henry allows for the reader to see just how devoted the characters are to one another. Honesty also comes to the forefront of the relationship between both characters when Delia burns her hand. This is a trigger which highlights just how deeply in love with one another each character is. Similarly Joe tells the truth when he discovers what really happened to Delia.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The iron that burns Delia acts in many ways as a means to tell the truth. It can symbolise honesty. Similarly with Joe he tells the truth when he hears of Delia’s honesty. The small apartment that Joe and Delia live in could be symbolise the depth of their love. Though the apartment is small it is filled with love. The reader suspecting that the size of the apartment is not a problem for Joe and Delia. They love each other regardless of their living space. The jobs both character takes, though they are unqualified, show how deeply they love their art. They are prepared to do anything in order to pursue their art. Even going as far as lying to one another for a period of time. The setting of the story could also be important as Joe and Delia are really nobodies to the world of New York. They struggle like other artists might.
The end of the story is interesting as honesty and love prevails. Highlighting to the reader the strength of Joe and Delia’s marriage. There does not seem to be anything that will separate them. Some couples would be upset if their wife or husband lied to them but this is not the case with Joe and Delia. If anything their love grows stronger for one another and for their art. Which may be the point that Henry is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that artists, no matter how desperate they may be, will allows follow their artistic path. They may lie to one another but it will be for a good cause in the end. The pursuit of their art and their personal happiness. It might also be true to say that both Joe and Delia are connected by their love for their art. They are prepared to keep the other one happy by lying so as not to upset them. If anything both characters are guilty of committing an honest lie. It was harmless and in the end they told one another the truth. While others might have given up on their art Joe and Delia don’t. They take menial jobs in the pursuit of their art and happiness.