Hearts and Hands Discussion Questions

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Are you studying short stories with your class? O. Henry's corpus offers many wonderful texts to choose from. This lesson provides a series of discussion questions that will help your students appreciate the story ~'Hearts and Hands~'.

Reading 'Hearts and Hands'

Whether you're trying to get your students to understand the concept of the twist ending, appreciate short stories overall, or learn more about the works of O. Henry, 'Hearts and Hands' can be a wonderful tale to focus on. This story tells of two old friends who meet each other on a train, and seem to reconnect after many years apart. Only at the end does the woman, Miss Fairchild, figure out that her old friend is actually heading to prison for counterfeiting.

By talking about 'Hearts and Hands,' your students will have a chance to work through themes like friendship, deception, and criminality. They will also gain more insight into the story's characters and O. Henry's remarkable craft. The discussion questions in this lesson will guide your students in talking about the story together.

Questions About Characters

Here, you will find questions designed to help students make sense of the different characters in the story.

  • What do you think of Miss Fairchild as a character? What personality traits stand out the most about her, and what seems to motivate most of her interests and behavior?
  • What seem to be Mr. Easton's most salient character traits, and why?
  • What is the historical nature of the relationship between Miss Fairchild and Mr. Easton? Describe how the two characters know each other and why it has been so long since they have seen each other.
  • What stands out to you over the course of the story about how the characters talk to one another? What, if any, clues do you find in their conversation to indicate that maybe things are not what they seem?
  • Talk about the behavior of the man who is handcuffed to Mr. Easton. How would you describe him as a character? What stands out most about him?
  • What is the role of the minor characters in this story, primarily the other passengers on the train? How do they contribute to the plot, and what do we learn from and about them?
  • How are Miss Fairchild and Mr. Easton similar to and different from each other? How does your opinion about this question change as the story unfolds?
  • What do you think leads Miss Fairchild to be naive about her friend? How does this impact your own opinion about her?

Questions About Plot

These questions will help your students work through the story's intricate plot together.

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