Analysis Of O. Henry\'s "Art And The Bronco


Art and the Bronco summary
O. Henry’s "Art and the Bronco" tells the story of Lonny Briscoe, a cowboy who is also an aspiring artist. It follows his quest to sell his first painting to the state legislature; to have it hung in the capital building. Lonny sees the sale of the painting as validation of his talent and worth as a painter. What he ends up learning is that the actual value of the painting turns out to be secondary to what other feel they can gain from it.
The story takes place in San Saba, a place trying to shed its image of "…barbarism, lawbreaking, and bloodshed." It presents itself as a much more refined place now, one which is now safe for tourism and business. The Legislature was lending subsidy to the arts to enhance this image. Lonny’s painting is hanging in the capital building. It is a large painting "…one might even say panorama," depicting a cowboy and steer, hung in a gilt frame.
At the capital, we are introduced to senators Kinney and Mullens, who only care about getting what they want from each other and getting re-elected. They see Lonny’s painting as a means to both ends. In the beginning, Kinney sees nothing of value in Lonny’s picture. In fact, he implies that it is awful, saying that he "…wouldn’t give six bits for the picture without the frame." Mullens agrees with Kinney’s assessment of the painting. He says that the painting is secondary to the artist—the grandson of Lucien Briscoe, a legendary local hero who is said to have "…carved the state out of the wilderness." The painting quickly fades to the background as both the senators see that pushing the state to give this hero’s grandson money is a quick way to gain public favor.
Lonny’s cowboy friends ride into town to push the paintings merits as well, adding their admiration for the gilt frame, so big and beautiful. They are very simple and undereducated, as evidenced by Skinny Rogers’ act of leaping away from the painting yelling "…Jeeming Cristopher! Thought that rattler was a gin-u-ine one," and are not as concerned about the merits of the painting as they are with the idea of one of their own getting money for it. They always speak loudly when they think there might be someone around to whom their comments might be "…profitably addressed."
When it becomes clear to Lonny the painting has more value in what the senators stand to gain than for his artistic talent, he seeks out an "expert" who he hopes will give him an honest, unbiased opinion about the worth of the painting.
The New York artist is self -absorbed to the extreme; he spitefully tells Lonny that his painting is horrible and that he ought to consider himself extemely lucky to sell it. He advises him to return to his true expertise, cow herding and be happy.
In the end Lonny destroys his painting, saying, "I thought I had a picture to sell but it wasn’t one… Anybody can have the frame that wants it."
O. Henry’s story seems to illustrate the various manifestations of greed, shown from many different frames of reference, and one person’s struggle to be honest with himself in the middle his own opportunity for gain. He shows the irony of everyone missing the truth, as represented by the painting, while never failing to comment on the gilt frame, representing their selfish or fake intentions and greed.


Category: English