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Product_catalog : School : LitLink : Grade08 : A Retrieved Reformation
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Reader's Toolbox
Character and Characterization. A character is a person or animal who takes part in the action of a literary work. The main character is called the protagonist. A character who struggles against the main character is called an antagonist. Characters can also be classified as one-dimensional or three-dimensional. A one-dimensional character is one who exhibits a single quality, or character trait. A three-dimensional character is one who seems to have all the complexities of an actual human being. Characterization is the act of creating or describing a character. Writers create character in three main ways: by showing what characters say, do, or think; by showing what other characters say or think about them; and by describing what physical features, dress, and personality the characters display. As you read, think about the characters O. Henry has created in this story and the techniques he has used to create them. Identify the protagonist, the antagonist, and one example of O. Henry’s use of characterization in “A Retrieved Reformation.”

Verbal Irony. A statement that says one thing but means the opposite is an example of verbal irony. For example, a student getting ready to take a long and difficult test might say “I simply can’t wait to sink my teeth into that three-hour test!” Verbal irony is typically used to create humor or make a point—it can be funny or serious. Use the graphic organizer to the right as a model to begin organizing your thoughts on how verbal irony is used in this story. Create an organizer for each example of verbal irony you find. As you read, note examples of verbal irony and the character that uses them. You will complete the other two parts of the organizer in Understanding Literature.

Reader's Resource
  • “A Retrieved Reformation” is the story of Jimmy Valentine, a man who attempts to change his life after serving almost a year in prison for several burglaries. Similarities can be noted between Valentine and the story’s author, William Sydney Porter. While Porter was in prison serving time for embezzling funds from the First National Bank in Texas, he started writing short stories. Three years and a dozen stories later, he emerged from prison as “O. Henry,” in an attempt to shield his true identity. He moved to New York City, and during the next ten years, published more than 300 stories, gaining acclaim as America’s favorite short story author and as a writer who knew the hopes and despairs of the common people.
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readers journal
Have you ever tried to change something about yourself that you didn’t like very much? If so, did you succeed? How difficult was it? What did you gain, and was it worth it? If not, write something about yourself you might like to work toward changing. What might your first step be?

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