The Furnished Room by O. Henry
In The Furnished Room by O. Henry we have the theme of connection, desperation, love, selfishness, torment and honesty. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Henry may be exploring the theme of connection. The young man who rents the room in Mrs Purdy’s home is desperate to make some type of connection with Eloise. He believes that she has been resident in the room prior to him and is anxious for Mrs Purdy to tell him who the previous lodgers may have been. Unfortunately the young man is not told the truth by Mrs Purdy who is fully aware that Eloise has lodged with her and has killed herself in the room. It is the scent of mignonette that confuses the young man and at the same time driving him to despair. This may be significant as the young man may be deeply in love with Eloise and as such cannot let her go or at least does not wish to let her go. The reader aware that the young man has spent some time searching for Eloise. Though it is not clearly stated by Henry it is most likely that the young man was in a relationship with Eloise which eventually turned sour for both the young man and Eloise.
The setting of the story may also be important as by describing the room that the young man rents to the reader. Henry may be highlighting how dire the young man feels about his situation. His mood matches the room. It is also possible that Eloise’s suicide was a direct result of her break up with the young man. Who will never learn the truth about what has happened Eloise. This could be important as by lying Mrs Purdy is allowing the loss that the young man feels to linger. If she was honest about Eloise’s death. At least the young man would have the opportunity to grieve her death. Which may be the point that Henry is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that when it comes to affairs of the heart Mrs Purdy should have the foresight to be honest. Regardless of what impression a lodger may feel when it comes to renting a room in which a person has killed themselves.
If anything Mrs Purdy is thinking only of herself throughout the story. Hoping that she does not have to tell a new lodger about what has really happened to the previous occupant of the room. There is also a sense of irony that the young man has come so close to the last place that Eloise was and will be next to her again as he too decides to commit suicide in the same room as Eloise. In death both lovers can be with one another again without having to live a life that is obviously tormenting to both Eloise and the young man. It is also interesting that despite Mrs Purdy saying she knows who her lodgers are. The reality is very much different. She never really knew Eloise and she also doesn’t know how crushed the young man feels when he discovers Eloise’s scent in the room. Instead Mrs Purdy continues to lie about the previous occupants of the room. However some critics might consider Mrs Purdy’s actions to be legitimate. She is after all running a business.
What is also interesting about the story is that prior to the young man committing suicide. He never gives up on finding Eloise. It is only when he realises he has gotten so close and doubts himself that he loses heart. As to how the young man might feel should Mrs Purdy have told him the truth is also open to speculation. The benefit as mentioned would have been that the young man could have grieved the loss of Eloise. Though at the same time it is possible that the young man would not have accepted what Mrs Purdy is telling him and as such killed himself. If anything it does not seem like the young man has the ability or will to live his life without Eloise. Just as she had the inability to live her life without him. Two young lovers take their own life because of the loss they feel. Though they will not be registered as anything more than two unfortunate and unrelated suicides in the same room. Life will go on as normal for those in the house and Mrs Purdy will lie again to the next occupant of the room. Who like the young man will never know the true story of the previous occupant.