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In "Elsie in New York," Elsie is an innocent young woman who, upon the death of her father, must look for work to make a living. Her father expected her to trust to the goodheartedness of his previous employer, but Elsie prefers to make her own way in life. Although she visits an employment agency and applies for several positions, do-gooders interfere. Thinking they are saving her soul, in actuality they point her to her destruction.
In "The Purple Dress," two young women clerks have been saving money all year to buy new dresses for the one gala of their year, the annual Thanksgiving dinner given by their employer. Both are hoping to catch the eye of one attractive gentleman bachelor at the party. But interactions with a landlady and a dressmaker intervene, and things turn out much differently than either girl could have imagined.
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O. Henry (1862-1910), born William Sydney Porter in Greensboro, North Carolina, was a short-story writer whose tales romanticized the commonplace, in particular, the lives of ordinary people in New York City. His stories often had surprise endings, a device that became identified with his name. He began writing sketches around 1887, and his stories of adventure in the Southwest United States and in Central America were immediately popular with magazine readers.
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