Buried Treasure by O. Henry
In Buried Treasure by O. Henry we have the theme of rivalry, love, commitment, greed, trust and success. Taken from his Selected Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by a man called Jim and after reading the story the reader realises that Henry may be exploring the theme of rivalry. The narrator and Goodloe both seek the attentions of May Martha and though their rivalry may seem to be friendly the narrator is aware that when he meets Goodloe he is attempting to find out if Goodloe has succeeded in courting May Martha. It is also noticeable that at no stage does the narrator give up on May Martha with it being clear to the reader that the narrator is very much in love with her. It is also possible that Henry may also be exploring the theme of commitment. The narrator (and Goodloe) never give up on their search for May Martha. Even after five months they still try to find out where she might have gone. Asking those who work in the town as to whether they have any information on May Martha’s whereabouts. Also the narrator intends to spend the two hundred thousand dollars he will have from the treasure on his search for May Martha. It might also be important that the narrator never gives up in his search for the buried treasure either. Goodloe believes that the map is a fake but regardless of this the narrator carries on with his search showing true commitment to the cause of finding the treasure.
The fact that Goodloe also joins the narrator on his search for the treasure may be important as it would seem that both men are doing so for different reasons. As mentioned the narrator wishes to use his share of the treasure to help him find May Martha while Goodloe’s intentions are unknown. However the reader suspects that Goodloe may be thinking only of himself when it comes to his share of the treasure. If anything Goodloe may be driven by greed. As readers we are aware that the narrator and Goodloe are not really friends and are more rivals. Goodloe may be searching for the treasure for his own gain unlike the narrator. What drives the narrator is love and Goodloe may not necessarily be as pure as the narrator. It is also noticeable that Goodloe on several occasions in the story attempts to belittle the narrator. Particularly when it comes to what the narrator can offer May Martha. Goodloe because he is educated believes he has more to offer May Martha.
The reader also suspects that there is some naivety when it comes to the narrator’s actions. He knows that Goodloe is a rival in love however he trusts him explicitly considering him to be a fellow adventurer when they begin to search for the treasure. However the reality is that Goodloe is thinking of nobody but himself. While the narrator is able to change the dynamic of his relationship with Goodloe. Goodloe on the other hand is still acutely aware that the narrator is his rival. It may also be important that when Goodloe gives up on his search for the treasure it is also the last that the reader hears of him in the story. It is as though he no longer shows the commitment he had previously shown when he was attempting to find out where May Martha may be.
What is also interesting about the end of the story is not only the fact that the narrator finds May Martha but he also discovers that May Martha is very much in love with him. Something that becomes clear to the reader when we find out that May Martha had wanted to write letters to the narrator but had been stopped by her father. Though the narrator has not found the buried treasure he still becomes a rich man knowing that he has Martha’s heart. It may also be important that the narrator lets the reader know how happy he has become now that Martha is living on his ranch with him. It is through the narrator’s happiness that Henry may be suggesting that should a person be in love they should never give up. Something that rings true for the narrator. Despite Goodloe trying to bamboozle the narrator with his intelligence. It is the narrator who has won the day. By working hard and never giving up the narrator has found the love he craved for. While Goodloe on the other hand is most likely licking his wounds in the saloon. Having failed to find the treasure and losing out in love. Despite his intelligence Goodloe remains alone at the end of the story. It is also possible that Henry is suggesting that intelligence in itself may not be an attractive trait. Goodloe throughout the story has used his intelligence to inflate his own ego while the narrator has worked hard and been distinguished by his actions.