An Analysis of the Cactus

10 October 2016

What would you do if you found no one is responsible of your bad luck but you? That was what O. Henry tries to pin down to the readers in his symbolic short story, The Cactus. Through meaningful words and dictions, O. Henry tells the bad luck of the main character, Trysdale, who does not know that it is actually himself who make it possible. The delineation of a prestige man who gradually lost his amount of fake accessory of pride leads to the end that Trysdale finds himself as a foolish man who pedantically let everything which should not be his becomes a weapon to kill himself.

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The main character’s fate reveals one of the consequents of being a conceited and infirm guy, also the prestige of knowing Spanish or foreign language in eighteen thousands. Through gradual revelation, O. Henry describes Trysdale’s character and behavior. The main thing that leads Trysdale’s fate becomes that bad is his habit of paraphrasing some Castillian proverbs from dictionaries. Perhaps knowing a little means that you know anything and it will make you looked more educated, that is what Trysdale trying to do. Unfortunately, he targeted wrong person, Carruthers.

He who admires Trysdale’s fake knowledge and shows it off to a woman that brings Trysdale’s bad luck in the end. Even Trysdale himself cries over spilt milk of this unexpected luck as stated in 9th paragraph, “Now, Carruthers was an idiot. ” and “Carruthers, who was one of his incontinent admirers, was the very man to have magnified this exhibition of doubtful erudition”. It also shows us that Trysdale admits how he is not that really know many things about the “Spanish scholarship” (paragraph 11). However, he cannot confess it after the woman makes a judgment about him.

Why? He wants to build a prestige of his own image in the woman’s eyes, another Trysdale’s foolish act to go to his end of the story. With his fake face, Trysdale becomes more confident to confess his anxiety of the woman. She who is thinking Trysdale knows everything about Spanish, decided to answer it with more elegant way. She gives him a cactus! Then, what does it mean? Is she rejects Trysdale’s proposal? No, she tagged “Ventomarme” word on it; means “come and take me”. Instead of happy, Trysdale confused with that kind of reaction, and assume it as a “strange actus” only with a nametag. What a good ending will be if he knows the meaning should be. Even after the proposal and acceptance occurrence, there only a strange meeting between them. There is no such a romantic conversation, the woman is “adamant” (paragraph 12) as she waits for Trysdale’ Reaction.

Even after “her cue” (paragraph 12), there is no important movement both of them, only confusion that make them drifted apart. No wonder if there is a big question in Trysdale’s head; “Where was his fault? Who had been to blame? (paragraph 12) since he doesn’t feel any mistake with him. Thus, all of Trysdale’s confusion is broke with a sudden question which enough to make his regret, that makes them become logic and rational. In the woman’s marriage, he still keeps his image. The question comes from an inscrutable conventional conversation with the woman’s brother who said the meaning of the word “Ventomarme”. Instead of showing Trysdale’s next reaction, O. Henry chooses to end the story here, where it is enough to build an aspect of a short story, deep impression for the reader.

Trysdale experiences a bad luck, left by the woman he love, without knowing what actually his mistake. After suffering confusion for certain period, it revealed that the key is placed in Spanish nametag on a cactus, which she used to know as Trysdale’s ability. Thus, The Cactus by O. Henry besides conveys the consequence of being a conceited and infirm person; it also perfectly represents what men want from such a prestige of knowing a Spanish or foreign language in eighteen hundreds.

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