The Count and the Wedding Guest by O. Henry
In The Count and the Wedding Guest by O. Henry we have the theme of love, connection, loneliness, honesty, fear, acceptance and independence. Taken from his Selected Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Henry may be exploring the theme of love. Maggie by dressing in black is attempting to make herself more attractive to others. She knows that she looks good when dressed in black and there is a sense that by dressing in black she is attempting to draw the attention of men. This may be important as it suggests that Maggie longs to connect with a man, to form a relationship with a man, which in turn suggests that Maggie longs to be loved. The reality may be that Maggie feels lonely in life. Something that becomes clearer to the reader when we discover that she has no friends in New York. Maggie also has a strong reliance on her mourning dress. Not only does she use it as a tool to connect with others but there is also a sense that the dress invokes pity which Maggie utilizes to her advantage. If anything the dress helps Maggie to tell her story. Though the reader is aware that Maggie’s story is a lie.
The fact that Maggie creates her own world of mourning may also be important as it highlights how far she will go in order to be able to connect with others. She creates a backdrop that is untrue just so that she is able to connect with Andy and others. Which again may play on the theme of loneliness. Maggie feels the need to create an alternative world around herself just in order to be able to draw the attention of a male suitor like Andy. She is envious of other women who have male companions and wishes herself to have her own companion too. Somebody who will love her. Which suggests that Maggie may be insecure. She needs the approval of a man in her life. This could be significant as Henry may be highlighting just how many women at the time the story was written may have felt. Rather than being able to live their lives independently of men, women sought sanctuary in marriage. There was a genuine fear among women of living their lives as single, independent women without the input of a male.
Though some critics may suggest that Andy is being dishonest to himself, by staying with Maggie even though he knows that the story about the count is a lie. It may also be a case that Andy is deeply in love with Maggie and will remain with her regardless of her actions. It is also possible that Andy is aware of just how lonely Maggie may be, having felt the need to make up a story about the Count. If anything Andy feels a connection with Maggie that runs deep within him. Rather than being disappointed with Maggie (and her lies) Andy remains committed to Maggie. There is a sense that he understands why Maggie may have lied and Andy does not hold it against her. If anything Andy again has fallen in love with Maggie and is prepared to marry her regardless of her past actions.
The end of the story is also interesting as for the first time Maggie is completely honest with Andy. It is obvious that she has found some type of contentment with Andy and does not wish to let him go. Hence her telling Andy the truth about the Count. It is also by being honest with Andy that the reader suspects that things will work out for Maggie and Andy. There is no longer any deception between them. Maggie has found what she wants. A man who will love her and who she is able to love and Andy has found himself a wife that he too is able to love. Overall Henry has written a story in whereby the main character Maggie overcomes adversity (her longing to be loved) and has the chance to be happy. There are no longer any secrets or stumbling blocks between Maggie and Andy. Though it is important to remember that in order to feel accepted by others Maggie created an alternative world around herself. She did not possess the inner strength to be able to live her life independently of others nor had she got the ability to ignore the opinions of others when it came to how an individual should live their life. Which again may be the point that Henry is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that women, again at the time the story was written, were conditioned for marriage. It was a role that they had to play in order to be fully accepted by society. Unlike the male who appears to have had a choice as to whether they wanted to marry or not. Maggie may not be aware of it but she has no choice but to be married. Though luckily for her she is marrying a responsible and kind-hearted man.