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The grey matters of the day

The city landscape on canvas
Art Image courtesy of Ihar Balaikin Title/Font design created by B. L. Cassidy

In reading fiction you are drawn in with vivid scenes from daily life and can find small treasures of enlightenment. The emotions of the relationships and interactions can be experienced through the language of the drama. In this editorial, a look at a classic collection of early twentieth century literary fiction short stories from O. Henry and Guy de Maupassant, masters of the unexpected ending to a fiction, otherwise known as a literary 'twist', in providing a larger insight within the neutral shades of personas and their everyday matters.

Guy de Maupassant was a contemporary and noted French writer, considered one of the major influences of what is referred to as short fiction or the modern short story. Maupassant fictions are considered of style and organized, natural, dramatic structure. Many are set during the 1870's, depicting personalities permanently changed by their experiences.

O. Henry, in his day, was called the American interpretation to Guy de Maupassant. While both authors wrote plot twist endings, O. Henry stories are considered to be more amusing and exhibit a reoccurrence of surprise endings. Most of his stories are also known for clever narration. O. Henry's stories are set in his day, the early twentieth century. Many take place in New York City and deal for the most part with everyday people. O. Henry was noted for having a manner for writing and isolating some segment of society and describing it with an eloquence of language.

Both O. Henry's and Maupassant's fictions share themes of sacrifice, beauty, love, everyday life, humor, anger, and relationships. Their plot twists deal with the spirit and scope of the day to day, comings and goings. Sacrifice is seen in two of their popular works, "The Gift of the Magi", by O.Henry, and "The Diamond Necklace", by Maupassant, with the symbolized element of giving a precious gift. The question put forth in developing the plot, is revolved around the theme 'but what is the worth and to whom'.

One of the key elements to engaging fiction are the sentences that drive the fiction forward and set the stage for attracting the reader further in, which both O. Henry and Maupassant do well. In the introduction to the story, "The Gift of the Magi", O. Henry begins to move the story and interest the reader, by immediately stating, "One dollar and eighty seven cents." In "The Diamond Necklace", Maupassant uses a sentence of surprise in the dialogue, "Oh, my poor Matilda!", to begin to set the stage for the unveiling of an unexpected event.

To showcase the setting in both the Writer's works, the color grey is often utilized to add backdrop, because it is of a neutral tone, presenting attributes of being somber, especially from lack of light. In "The Gift of the Magi", the grey cat reflects the environment, in which Jim and Della live, "a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard." O. Henry is illustrating through the language, a picture of the surroundings, as humdrum, and also of their current circumstance in life. They live in a small and very inexpensive apartment. Grey is the color that best describes much of their living, not of futility and despair, but nothing immediately particular.

Revealing the contrast between what characters think about their situation, and what their situation actually is, creates the moment of irony. Irony's often an ingredient of the best twist endings and gives way to discovering jewels of a bigger unveiling.

She laughed. "Did you know that I married six months after you did? It was in all the newspapers." She was silent for a minute. Then she looked up at me again.("A Walk in Amnesia", by O. Henry)

And seventeen minutes after, Miss D'Armande said, "I'd like to know where Lee is now", somebody knocked on the door. It was, of course, Rosalie Ray.("The Momento", by O. Henry)

She learned the heavy cares of a household, the odious work of a kitchen.("The Diamond Necklace", by Guy de Maupassant)

"Through language we are able to communicate many aspects of our experience, and readers can understand the concepts by correlating them with their own experiences which share a similar field of meaning for each word and group of words", notes Sanderson Beck, on the subject of art and communication.

What makes the small details of everyday lives? Often, in the haze of the day, you can find hidden gems. And sometimes, it is in the not so obvious places. Sometimes seeing things from a new and wider perspective.

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