The Duplicity Of Hargraves by O. Henry, 1902
The magic trick:
Nestling a serious, interesting question of artistic ethics within an otherwise light, comic story
More O. Henry today, and, yes, more twists and turns and surprise endings. But this story transcends the mere pleasure of an interesting reveal. This story explores an interesting issue: the nature of artistic ownership. Who owns fictional material based upon real events? Where do the lines of ethics fall when it comes to representing reality in art? What is inspiration? What is burglary? These are questions every artist must consider long and hard, and they are questions raised by this story in comic but interesting ways. And that’s quite a trick on O. Henry’s part.
“It occurred to me,” the major would begin — he was always ceremonious – ”that perhaps you might have found your duties at the — at your place of occupation — sufficiently arduous to enable you, Mr. Hargraves, to appreciate what the poet might well have had in his mind when he wrote, ’tired Nature’s sweet restorer,’ — one of our Southern juleps.
“ It was a fascination to Hargraves to watch him make it. He took rank among artists when he began, and he never varied the process. With what delicacy he bruised the mint; with what exquisite nicety he estimated the ingredients; with what solicitous care he capped the compound with the scarlet fruit glowing against the dark green fringe! And then the hospitality and grace with which he offered it, after the selected oat straws had been plunged into its tinkling depths!