One Thousand Dollars O Henry Essay

Our story today is called “One Thousand Dollars.” It was written by O. Henry. Here is Steve Ember with the story.

"One thousand dollars," said the lawyer Tolman, in a severe and serious voice. "And here is the money.”

Young Gillian touched the thin package of $50 bills and laughed.

"It's such an unusual amount," he explained kindly to the lawyer. “If it had been $10,000, a man might celebrate with a lot of fireworks. Even $50 would have been less trouble."

"You heard the reading of your uncle's will after he died," continued the lawyer Tolman. "I do not know if you paid much attention to its details. I must remind you of one. You are required to provide us with a report of how you used this $1,000 as soon as you have spent it. I trust that you will obey the wishes of your late uncle."

"You may depend on it," said the young man respectfully.

Gillian went to his club. He searched for a man he called Old Bryson.

Old Bryson was a calm, anti-social man, about 40 years old. He was in a corner reading a book. When he saw Gillian coming near he took a noisy, deep breath, laid down his book and took off his glasses.

"I have a funny story to tell you,” said Gillian.

"I wish you would tell it to someone in the billiard room," said Old Bryson. "You know how I hate your stories."

"This is a better one than usual," said Gillian, rolling a cigarette, and I'm glad to tell it to you. It's too sad and funny to go with the rattling of billiard balls.

I’ve just come from a meeting with my late uncle's lawyers. He leaves me an even $1,000. Now, what can a man possibly do with $1,000?"

Old Bryson showed very little interest. "I thought the late Septimus Gillian was worth something like half a million."

"He was," agreed Gillian, happily. "And that's where the joke comes in. He has left a lot of his money to an organism. That is, part of it goes to the man who invents a new bacillus and the rest to establish a hospital for doing away with it again. There are one or two small, unimportant gifts on the side. The butler and the housekeeper get a seal ring and $10 dollars each. His nephew gets $1,000 thousand dollars."

"Were there any others mentioned in your uncle’s will?" asked Old Bryson.

"None." said Gillian. “There is a Miss Hayden. My uncle was responsible for her. She lived in his house. She's a quiet thing … musical … the daughter of somebody who was unlucky enough to be his friend.

"I forgot to say that she was in on the ring and $10 joke, too. I wish I had been. Then I could have had two bottles of wine, given the ring to the waiter and had the whole business off my hands. Now tell me what a man can do with $1,000."

Old Bryson rubbed his glasses and smiled. And when Old Bryson smiled, Gillian knew that he intended to be more offensive than ever.

There are many good things a man could do with $1,000,” said Bryson. "You?" he said with a gentle laugh. "Why, Bobby Gillian, there's only one reasonable thing you could do. You can go and buy Miss Lotta Lauriere a diamond necklace with the money and then take yourself off to Idaho and inflict your presence upon a ranch. I advise a sheep ranch, as I have a particular dislike for sheep.”

"Thanks," said Gillian as he rose from his chair. "I knew I could depend on you, Old Bryson. You've hit on the very idea. I wanted to spend the money on one thing, because I have to turn in a report for it, and I hate itemizing.”

Gillian phoned for a cab and said to the driver: "The stage entrance of the Columbine Theatre."

The theater was crowded. Miss Lotta Lauriere was preparing for her performance when her assistant spoke the name of Mr. Gillian.

"Let it in," said Miss Lauriere. "Now, what is it, Bobby? I'm going on stage in two minutes."

“It won't take two minutes for me. What do you say to a little thing in the jewelry line? I can spend $1,000."

“Say, Bobby,” said Miss Lauriere, “Did you see that necklace Della Stacey had on the other night? It cost $2,200 at Tiffany's.”

Miss Lauriere was called to the stage for her performance.

Gillian slowly walked out to where his cab was waiting. "What would you do with $1,000 if you had it?" he asked the driver.

"Open a drinking place," said the driver, quickly. "I know a place I could take money in with both hands. I've got it worked out -- if you were thinking of putting up the money.”

"Oh, no," said Gillian. “I was just wondering.”

Eight blocks down Broadway, Gillian got out of the cab. A blind man sat on the sidewalk selling pencils. Gillian went out and stood in front of him.

"Excuse me, but would you mind telling me what you would do if you had $1,000?” asked Gillian.

The blind man took a small book from his coat pocket and held it out. Gillian opened it and saw that it was a bank deposit book.

It showed that the blind man had a balance of $1,785 in his bank account. Gillian returned the bank book and got back into the cab.

"I forgot something," he said. "You may drive to the law offices of Tolman and Sharp.”

Lawyer Tolman looked at Gillian in a hostile and questioning way.

"I beg your pardon," said Gillian, cheerfully. "But was Miss Hayden left anything by my uncle's will in addition to the ring and the $10 dollars?"

"Nothing," said Mr. Tolman.

“I thank you very much, sir," said Gillian, and went to his cab. He gave the driver the address of his late uncle's home.

Miss Hayden was writing letters in the library. The small, thin woman wore black clothes. But you would have noticed her eyes. Gillian entered the room as if the world were unimportant.

“I have just come from old Tolman's," he explained. “They have been going over the papers down there. They found a …”

Gillian searched his memory for a legal term. “They found an amendment or a post-script or something to the will. It seemed that my uncle had second thoughts and willed you $1,000. Tolman asked me to bring you the money. Here it is.”

Gillian laid the money beside her hand on the desk. Miss Hayden turned white. "Oh!" she said. And again, "Oh!"

Gillian half turned and looked out the window. In a low voice he said, "I suppose, of course, that you know I love you."

"I am sorry," said Miss Hayden, as she picked up her money.

"There is no use?" asked Gillian, almost light-heartedly.

"I am sorry," she said again.

"May I write a note?" asked Gillian, with a smile. Miss Hayden supplied him with paper and pen, and then went back to her writing table.

Gillian wrote a report of how he spent the $1,000: “Paid by Robert Gillian, $1,000 on account of the eternal happiness, owed by Heaven to the best and dearest woman on Earth."

Gillian put the note into an envelope. He bowed to Miss Hayden and left.

His cab stopped again at the offices of Tolman and Sharp.

“I have spent the $1,000," he said cheerfully, to Tolman. "And I have come to present a report of it, as I agreed.” He threw a white envelope on the lawyer's table.

Without touching the envelope, Mr. Tolman went to a door and called his partner, Sharp. Together they searched for something in a large safe. They brought out a big envelope sealed with wax. As they opened the envelope, they shook their heads together over its contents. Then Tolman became the spokesman.

"Mr. Gillian," he said, “there was an addition to your uncle's will. It was given to us privately, with instructions that it not be opened until you had provided us with a full report of your handling of the $1,000 received in the will.

“As you have satisfied the conditions, my partner and I have read the addition. I will explain to you the spirit of its contents.

“In the event that your use of the $1,000 shows that you possess any of the qualifications that deserve reward, you stand to gain much more. If your disposal of the money in question has been sensible, wise, or unselfish, it is in our power to give you bonds to the value of $50,000. But if you have used this money in a wasteful, foolish way as you have in the past, the $50,000 is to be paid to Miriam Hayden, ward of the late Mr. Gillian, without delay.

“Now, Mr. Gillian, Mr. Sharp and I will examine your report of the $1,000.”

Mr. Tolman reached for the envelope. Gillian was a little quicker in taking it up. He calmly tore the report and its cover into pieces and dropped them into his pocket.

"It's all right," he said, smilingly. "There isn't a bit of need to bother you with this. I don't suppose you would understand these itemized bets, anyway. I lost the $1,000 on the races. Good-day to you, gentlemen."

Tolman and Sharp shook their heads mournfully at each other when Gillian left. They heard him whistling happily in the hallway as he waited for the elevator.

Now it’s your turn to use these Words in this Story. In the comments section, write a sentence using one of these words and we will provide feedback on your use of vocabulary and grammar.​


Words in this Story

will - n. (law) a legal document in which a person states who should receive his or her possessions after he or she dies

billiards - n. any one of several games that are played on a large table by hitting solid balls into one another with the end of a long stick

bacillus- n. a straight rod-shaped bacterium that requires oxygen for growth

safe - n. a strong metal box with a lock that is used to store money or valuable things

ward - n. a person (such as a child) who is protected and cared for by a court or guardian

“One Thousand Dollars” is a short story by master American short story writer O. Henry, most famous for his work “The Gift of the Magi,” a Christmas story commonly dramatized during the holidays. “One Thousand Dollars” concerns a carefree young man and a surprise inheritance. The story contains O. Henry’s signatures of witty dialogue and an ironic twist ending. The stories typically contain ironic reversals that come towards the end and One Thousand Dollars is no exception. At the start of the story, the protagonist, Robert Gillian, the heir presumptive of a fortune from his recently deceased wealthy uncle appears to be an idle, selfish, and irresponsible young man – a spendthrift who has

always had money to spend because of the allowance is given to him by his uncle.

One Thousand Dollars Summary by O.Henry

Two men meet in a lawyer’s office. The lawyer, Mr. Tolman, informs the younger man, called Young Gillian, that his recently deceased uncle has left him exactly $1,000 as part of his will. Gillian is surprised by the specific sum, musing that if it had been $10,000, he might have celebrated, and even $50 would be “less trouble.” Mr. Tolman reminds Gillian that as per the terms of the will, Gillian must provide receipts for anything he buys with the money.Gillian leaves Mr. Tolman’s office and visits his local social club, where he seeks out a fellow club member named Old Bryson. He interrupts Bryson as he’s reading, which annoys Bryson, who asks Gillian to bother someone else, perhaps someone in the billiards room. Gillian continues with his story anyway.

When he tells Bryson of his inheritance, Bryson is also surprised by the sum. Gillian’s uncle, Septimus, was worth half a million dollars, at least. Gillian explains that most of his uncle’s money went towards scientific research and the building of a hospital. His uncle’s butler and housekeeper each received a ring and $10, along with a young girl in his uncle’s care, Miss Hayden.Bryson sarcastically suggests that Gillian spends his money on a necklace for his actress girlfriend, Miss Lotta Lauriere, and then on a train ride to Idaho, where Gillian could live on a sheep ranch. Gillian agrees with the first half of this suggestion and takes a cab to the Columbine Theatre, where Lotta is performing. He goes backstage to see her, but she is in the middle of a performance and can’t go to the jewelry shop. He asks a cabbie what he’d do with the money, and the cabbie says he’d open a bar. He asks a blind beggar the same question, and the beggar reveals he actually has over $1,000 in his bank account.Gillian goes back to Mr. Tolman’s office and asks whether Miss Hayden received anything else but the ring and the paltry $10.

Mr. Tolman says she did not. Gillian visits Mr. Hayden at his late uncle’s house, where she is in mourning clothes. He lies to her, telling her that there was a mistake with the will, and she actually received $1000. He hands her his money, then confesses he loves her. She is kind, but can’t reciprocate. He borrows a pen and paper to write a receipt for how he spent the money—in an act of love towards Miss Hayden, the truly deserving party.He returns to Mr. Tolman’s office, receipt in hand. Mr. Tolman reveals that there was a secret stipulation in Septimus’ will. If Gillian spent his inheritance in a way that showed good character, he would receive $50,000. If he spent it wastefully, that same money would instead go to Miss Hayden. Mr. Tolman goes to read the receipt, but Gillian snatches it back and shreds it. He lies and claims he spent the money gambling on horses, and walks out of the office, whistling a happy tune. Because of his lie, the woman he loves will be wealthy and happy, and he doesn’t care if she’ll never love him back, or that no one will ever know about his act of kindness.

Characters: Gillian- is a very bold yet undetermined character. He expresses himself in a couple different ways throughout the story. In the beginning of the story, he shows himself as being young and fun, towards the end of the story he grows up and matures. The conflict in this story is money and sacrifice. The way he handles the conflict makes him come off as a dynamic character. He comes off as a dynamic character because of the way he handles the situation. The thesis of this story has to do with money, greed, love, sacrifice and human decency. Gillian is a middle aged guy. He does not have much to offer in life because he usually wastes his money at clubs or parties. He also does not have very many people that like him so he does not receive much motivation when dealing with everyday situations in life.

Theme: People can give value to their life by not being greedy. This is demonstrated when Mr. Gillian gives his $1,000 dollars to Mrs. Hayden. Robert Gillian shows to be even less selfish when he lies about gambling the money away so Mrs. Hayden will receive another $50,000 dollars.People can also give value to their lives by making change for what that person finds to be the better. The reader can conclude Robert Gillian isn’t the best money manager. This shows how Robert Gillian is known to be unwise with money.

Solved Question: Why does Gillian give miss Hayden the one thousand dollars?

Gillian gave Miss Hayden the $1,000.00 because he felt it was the right thing to do. She was left nothing by his Uncle, and he wanted to make it right.tells her he loves her; she apologizes. because she won’t or can’t accept his love. He adds the following postscript; “Paid by the black sheep, Robert Gillian, $1,000 on account of the eternal happiness, owed by Heaven to the best and dearest woman on earth.Afterward, he returns to the solicitors’ office where he learns of the will’s final terms. They ask him what he’s done with the money; there are other conditions he was unaware of, “If your disposal of the money in question has been prudent, wise, or unselfish, it is in our power to hand you over bonds to the value of $50,000, which has stories been placed in our hands for that purpose.


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