(Q&A for Jimmy Valentine by O.Henry from An Anthology of Short Stories prescribed for students of ICSE Schools,India)
Q1. Sum in your own words O Henry’s story ‘Jimmy Valentine”
A1. The story of Jimmy Valentine is about a reformed burglar. Jimmy Valentine had gone to jail several times. The last time he was released, the warden on the jail asked him not to go back to this way of crime. However, this had not effect on Jimmy Valentine. Immediately, upon getting released he retrieved his tools of burglary which he had kept hidden. With a week of release, he started breaking open safes once again. Detective Ben Price was put on the job to track this burglar. On seeing how well the burglary had been executed, Ben Price knew that it was Jimmy Valentine who had committed the burglary and immediately got on his trail.
Jimmy Valentine on his burglary mission went to the town of Elmore. There, while crossing the road he saw Annabel Adams – whose father owned The Elmore Bank. He was so fascinated by Annabel Adams that he decided to settle in Elmore. In order to establish himself in Elmore, he started a shoe business using his shoe making skills learnt in jail.
Gradually, he became well established in the town of Elmore under his new name Ralph D Spencer. He was socially successful and later got engaged to be married to Annabel. He was so happy with his new life as Ralph D Spencer that the even decided to return all the tool of his old trade to his friend. However, unknown to him detective Ben Price had reach Elmore on his trail.
One morning Jimmy Valentine accompanied Annabel and her family to her fathers bank. At the bank, in the spirit of play Annabel’s sister daughter May, had locked her sister Agatha in the bank’s vault. There was panic since the vault could not be opened as the combination had not been set. Annabel beseeched Jimmy to do something to rescue Agatha from the vault. An accomplished burglar Jimmy immediately took out his tools -which he was carrying on that day to return to his friend – and in less than ten minutes had the safe open. As Jimmy Valentine came out of the bank – Ben Price the detective was waiting for him. Jimmy decided to surrender. However, Ben Price had now realized that Jimmy Valentine was a changed person and therefore did not take any action and left Jimmy Valentine to pursue his new life.
Q2. Give a Pen Picture of Jimmy Valentine.
A2. Jimmy Valentine was a young and handsome man with an impressive personality. He was well spoken and had good manners. He was quick-witted. He had a large circle of friends. Jimmy was a skilled burglar. He was also, later a successful businessman – as the success of his shoe business showed. He could break open any safe. He had gone to jail several times on charges of burglary. In jail he had learnt the art of making shoes. Even after getting out of jail the last time – he did not hesitate about getting back to his profession of burglary. However, his life changed after he went to Elmore – a small town – to commit burglary. At Elmore he saw Annabel Adam - the daughter of a banker. He was so fascinated by her that he decided to change his name and settle down in Elmore.
He set up shoe business in Elmore which was very successful. He was also successful in his business and developed a large circle of friends. His success got him in touch with Annabel Adams to whom he got engaged.
On a visit to the bank with Annabel, her sister and her kids he was forced to go back to his burglary kit which he had not used for a year – in order to rescue Agatha from the vault. At this point it appears that he would go back to his old ways. As the comes out of the vault area – Ben Price was waiting for him. Ben Price who has been tracking Jimmy Valentine for some days realized that Jimmy had indeed changed. He did not arrest Jimmy. This gave Jimmy a new life. His career as a burglar was over.
Q3. Describe the role of Ben Price in the story of Jimmy Valentine.
A3. Ben Price was a detective who had arrested Jimmy the last time. He know Jimmy’s skills as a burglar. Immediately after his release from jail, Jimmy committed three safe-breakins. Ben Price was brought into the picture to find out about the burglar. Looking at the job, Ben Price realized that it was Jimmy Valentine who was committing these burglaries. He got on to Jimmy’s trail and followed Jimmy to Elmore. At Elmore he watched Jimmy’s activities waiting for the right time to arrest him. When Jimmy went to the bank with Annabel and her family – Ben Price followed him there to arrest him when he came out. However, seeing how Jimmy rescued Agatha, Ben Price realized that Jimmy was a changed man and therefore did not arrest him. This shows that Ben Price was a compassionate person and that he was also a good judge of peoples character. This is in addition to his skills as a good detective.
Q4. How was Agatha saved? Give illustrations from the story of Jimmy Valentine.
A4. Agatha was locked in the banks new safe when she was playing with her sister Mary. No one could open the door of the of the safe. The lock had not been wound and the combination had not been set. This caused panic in the family. No one had an idea how Agatha could be rescued. When Annabel asked Jimmy to try to rescue Agatha, Jimmy used his burglary tools and opened the safe in less than ten minutes. This is how Agatha was rescued.
Q5. Give a brief character sketch of Annabel.
A5. Annabel was the pretty daughter of a banker who owned Elmore Bank. Jimmy was fascinated by her, the first time he saw her while crossing . So fascinated was Jimmy by her personality that he decided to settle down in Elmore.
Annabel for a cheerful and bubbly person who was very close to her family. She has also become fond of Jimmy. After Jimmy’s act of rescuing Agatha – she started liking Jimmy even more
Q6. The author maintains the interest of the reader by using humor and suspense. Write in detail how he author succeeds in using these elements :
A6. The author succeeds in using humor and suspense to keep the interest of the reader.
When Jimmy is released from jail and the warden asks him not to crack a safe again, Jimmy say that he has never cracked a safe before. When the warden asks him why he was sent to jail on the Springfield job – Jimmy says he had never been to Springfield
Humour is used her by author for to show Jimmy’s false defence of his position.
The author says that when Jimmy is released from jail he is offered a train ticket and five dollars to rehabilitate himself. The author uses humor here to describe how short-sighted the government is to expect a person to rehabilitate himself for five dollars.
When his friend Mike Dolan see him going out with his burglary kit he asks Jimmy if the was going on a “job”. To this Jimmy replies that he was representing New York Amalgamated Short Snap Biscuit Cracker and Frazzled Wheat Company. This shows Jimmy quick wit and the use of humor by the author.
While examining a safe break-in detective Ben Price says that this was Jimmy Valentine’s autograph. This shows that Ben Price too was humorous.
SuspenseThe author uses suspense when he says that Ben Price reached Elmore the day Jimmy wrote to his friend that he was giving up burglar to become a changed person. It leads the reader to think if Jimmy would get into trouble again with the law even though he had given up his life of the past.
When Jimmy comes out of the Bank, Ben Price is waiting for him. This is a suspenseful moment – as it lead the reader to wonder if Jimmy would get arrested at this point.
When Agatha gets locked in the safe – the reader is in a state of suspense wondering if Jimmy would use his tools to save the girl – even thought this could get Jimmy into trouble.
The author has used humor and suspense at many point to keep the interest of the reader.