O.Henry: The Green Door from The Gift of the Magi & other stories


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A young man named Rudolf Steiner works in a music shop during the daytime. At night, he explores the city of New York, in search of romance and adventure. One evening, he walks by a man passing out pieces of paper to people passing by. He is given a piece of paper with three words written on it. The three words are The Green Door.

Other people also receive bits of paper from the man, but throw theirs away. Rudolf compares the other pieces of paper with his, but nobody else seems to have received the mysterious invitation to The Green Door. The other pieces of paper all advertise the location of a doctor's office.

Certain that he is destined for a special adventure, Rudolf enters a nearby building in search of a green door. The building is not very well lit, but on the second floor he finds a green door. He knocks on the door and a young girl answers. She is attractive, but very poor and hungry. She faints from hunger into Rudolf's arms.


He carries her to her bed. Seeing her hunger and poverty, Rudolf runs out to buy food and milk for her. Then, when he is ready to leave, he promises to see her again the next day. However, when he leaves her apartment, he soon realizes that every door in the building is painted green.

He runs back down to the man on the street and asks him why he gave him that piece of paper with The Green Door written on it. The man shows him a theater across the street called The Green Door and tells Rudolf that the theater people paid him to hand out papers and that he had given invitations to The Green Door to other people as well.

Rudolf is convinced that it could only be his destiny to meet the girl in this strange way. She is the adventure and romance he was hoping for behind the Green Door, even if it was the wrong door.

Vocab Checkpoint
passing out (phrasal verb)

To pass something out is to distribute, in this case the man was passing out pieces of paper.

This should not be confused with another very common meaning of pass out, which is to faint (see next column).

passing by (phrasal verb)

To pass by is to walk or move past. You may be in a car or any other from of transport.

mysterious (adjective)

Mysterious means that the meaning or appearance of something is not known. It is very interesting to the person who wants to know.

location (noun)

The location of something is where it is. If a chair is next to a table, that is its location. The verb is 'to locate' and is often used in the passive voice '... is located...'

destined (verb)

Destiny is the noun of this verb. The verb is always used in the passive as we can not control our destiny. Our destiny includes things that will happen to us whatever we do. e.g. accidents, good luck, etc.

in search of (adverbial phrase)

In search of is to look for something and is used with verbs of motion like go or in this case, enter.

attractive (adjective)

Something that is attractive is pleasant to look at.

faints (verb)

To faint is to collapse or fall over unconscious. To pass out is an alternative phrasal verb that means the same (see previous column).

poverty (noun)

Poverty is the state of being poor, or having no money and no means to earning any money, like having a job.

convinced (adjective)

If you are convinced that something is going to happen, you are more than 90% sure or certain.

Try this exercise with a friend


Quickly read the synopsis again and choose just five words. These can be any five words, but they should be words that you think are important in describing the main characters.

Write the words down and then compare them with a friend. Between you there are ten words. Some may be the same. From those words, choose the five you both think are most important.

Try to describe Rudolf and the girl he meets behind the green door, but don't look at the synopsis.

If you wish you could try to write these descriptions as an answer to the questions on the right.


Why did Rudolf choose to look for 'The Green Door'?

Was Rudolf wise to look for 'The Green Door'?

How did the girl feel when Rudolf knocked on her door?

How did Rudolf feel when he discovered that all the doors in the building were green?

When you have discussed these questions or written a description, click on the questions to read the synopsis again.



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contents ••• Title Page ••• synopsis ••• pre-story ••• in-story ••• exercises ••• follow-up ••• map of ELLSA