Read below our complete study guide on the short story “The Green Door” by O. Henry. Our guide covers The Green Door summary, characters, themes, and analysis.


The short story “The Green Door” is written by an American author William Sydney Porter, whose pseudonym is O.Henry. “The Green Door” was published in 1906 in a collection of short stories, “The Four Million.” O.Henry is a realist who has written on the life of the working class in New York. O.Henry’s stories have a distinctive quality of twists in the plot that raise an ironic circumstance. He is a master of developing suspense in stories. Surprise endings are a prominent feature of O.Henry’s stories. 


 It is a story about a young man’s adventure, romanticism, and how he seizes an opportunity when it knocks. One day, he gets a card from an advertiser that says ” The Green Door “. These mysterious words and his adventurous nature lead him to the green door of an apartment. His knock on the door is answered by a young girl. He knew not that he would find the love of his life behind “The Green Door.” This brings him to the conclusion that it was preordained for them to meet this way.

The Green Door Summary

True Adventurer

The story opens in an unusual way. An unknown narrator suggests the reader to think of an adventure. You are on your way to a theater deciding whether to watch a comedy or a tragedy. Suddenly, you feel that a hand is placed on your arm. You turn around to find a beautiful lady standing in front of you. She puts bread and butter on your hand and cuts a small piece of your coat. She says the word “parallelogram” and it doesn’t make sense to you. She then runs away.

The narrator asks the reader how you would react in such a situation. He says you would probably drop the bread in embarrassment and search for your coat piece. Because you are not daring enough to live an adventurous life.

The narrator differentiates the true adventurers, half adventurers, and those who are not adventurers at all. He says history is full of many great stories of famous adventurers, but they were only half adventurers. Because they had a certain goal to achieve in their adventures and it was not a blind end. He says that true adventurers are not those who chase women, property or money but those who have nothing particular in their mind. There is no purpose for their travel and they are willing to accept anything coming their way.

The Green Door

The narrator introduces the protagonist Rudolf Steiner whom he calls “a true adventurer”. He is a young, romantic and adventurous man. He works in a piano store as a salesperson during the daytime and spends his nights wandering in the streets of New York City, exploring new adventures.

Rudolf’s adventures are not always rewarding. Many times he got caught in situations where he had to lose his precious belongings or his money. But that still didn’t stop him from looking for more adventures.

One evening, while he is strolling in the street, full of hustle and bustle, Rudolf notices a black man dressed in yellow and red. He is a Doctor’s assistant and is distributing cards among people that contain the doctor’s information. The advertiser hands Rudolf a card.

When Rudolph reads the card, he finds three mysterious words inscribed on it “The Green Door”. This intrigues him. A man passing by him tosses the doctor’s card to the ground. Rudolf retrieves it and finds the address of the doctor’s office written on it. Confused, he returns to the black man and obtains another card from him. Again “The Green Door” is written on it. He finds it thrilling and gears up for an adventure.

He looks up at the building where the doctor’s office is located. He believes his adventure must be inside the building so he enters it to solve the mystery. His adventurous nature leads him to a green door of an apartment in a dimly lit corridor on the second floor.

When he knocks, a young girl in her twenties opens the door. Her face is pale and she seems weak and lethargic. Soon she loses consciousness but Rudolf quickly catches her before falling. Rudolf carries her inside and puts her on a bed. He then observes the apartment. It’s clean but not well furnished making her poverty apparent.

Rudolf stares at the girl’s face and finds her very beautiful. When the girl regains consciousness, she smiles at Rudolf and says, “Fainted, didn’t I? Well, who wouldn’t? You try going without anything to eat for three days and see!” 

Hearing this, Rudolf rushes to the nearest restaurant to grab something to eat. First, he forces the girl to drink milk and then she starts eating the food voraciously. She is so hungry that she accepts his help ignoring the fact that he is a stranger.

After dinner, the girl shares with him the story of her misfortunes. She has lost her job and has no money to support herself. Moreover, she is completely hopeless, penniless, and alone. Upon Rudolf’s inquiry, the girl tells him that she has no relatives or friends to help her. Hearing this, Rudolf tells her that he too has no one in the world to relate. This information comforts the girl.

The girl feels tired and sleepy. Rudolf says his goodbye letting her take some rest and promises to visit her tomorrow to check on her. Before he leaves, the girl asks him how he made his way to her apartment. He decides that he would never let her know the truth as it might hurt her. So he lies and says he was looking for someone else. The last thing he sees before going out is her smile. 

On leaving the apartment,  he realizes that all the doors were green in the corridor, a fact which he didn’t notice before. In the street, he sees the black man again. He goes directly to him and asks him what  “The Green Door” means. The man replies that he distributes advertisement cards to a doctor’s office. And tonight, with these cards, he also distributed cards of a play. The man points to a theater across the street called “The Green Door.” At the end of the story, Rudolf realizes that it was a strange way of fate to make him meet the young girl as he was the true follower of romance and adventure.

The Green Door Characters Analysis

Rudolf Steiner

The main character of the story is Rudolf Steiner. He works as a salesman in a piano shop. The author characterizes him as a “true adventurer.” As he states, “Few were the evenings on which he did not go forth from his hall bedchamber in search of the unexpected and the egregious.” When he receives a card with mysterious words written upon it, he considers it as a signal of fate to undertake this new mysterious journey. But at the same time, he manages to live a normal life.

He is an American but he is quite different from the typical capitalist Americans. For instance when he says to the girl, “This is ridiculous, to go without eating – I’m coming back tomorrow to see how you are getting along – you can’t get rid of me so easily.” This shows his humanitarian nature.

 He belongs to the middle class. He considers rich and poor as equals. To him, social class does not matter. This is evident from his behaviour towards the young girl. He immediately helps her after witnessing her miserable condition. Through Rudolf’s character, people’s attention is directed to the issue of derogatory behavior towards the poor.

The Young Poor Girl

Another important character in the story is the poor girl. Her name is not mentioned. She has recently lost her job. She is so poor that she does not have enough money to buy food. As in the story, we see that she has been hungry for three days. Her apartment is clean but not well furnished, revealing her poor socioeconomic state. 

Through this character, the author depicts the real life and the sufferings of the working class of America in the 20th century. As he states, “It was one of a thousand such as the city yawns at every day–the shop girl’s story of insufficient wages, further reduced by fines…”

Themes in The Green Door


One of the major themes of the story is an adventure. Adventure is to try out something daring. In this story, we see that the protagonist Rudolf is a true adventurer. In his quest for adventure,  he meets the girl who changes his life for good.

The character of Rudolf teaches us that getting out of your comfort zone helps you to grow as a person. By trying new things,  you get to know yourself better. It improves life experiences, teaches you more lessons, and life becomes more meaningful.


Mystery and realism are also important themes in the story. A sense of mystery is skillfully developed in the story. It has a clear start and an end. The details of the story are so realistic that the reader can visualize the scene and get an idea of ​​what is going on in the story

Rudolf tries to solve the clue given to him. As he searches for “The Green Door”, the reader’s and Rudolf’s curiosity to solve the mystery progressively increases until the story is finally clarified.


Nonconformity is an important theme in the story. In this story we see O.Henry’s detest for following conventions and standards. Perhaps O.Henry himself wanted to be as unorthodox as Rudolf but due to the constraints of society, he could not act upon it. Through the character of Rudolf, he expresses his desire to be a nonconformist.


The role of fate in one’s life weaves its way throughout the short story. As the story progresses, fate seems to drive Rudolf on his journey towards meeting the girl.

The Green Door Literary Analysis

From the beginning of the story, the reader realizes that it is about a mysterious adventure. The narrator discusses two types of people; those who are adventure seekers and those who follow conventions.

Rudolf is a daring young man and is always ready to put his life on the line. He roams in the streets around the city in search of adventure as if he lives for it. During the day, he works in a piano store and in the evening, he walks around the city in search of new ventures.

When Rudolf discovers that all the doors of the building are green, he considers himself fortunate to have knocked on the girl’s door. He feels that it is the fate that has brought them together in such a surprising way. Perhaps O. Henry is suggesting that great achievements can come with courage and belief in one’s fate.

To Rudolf, socializing with new people, embracing change and digging deeper into life are the benefits of adventure. Through this story, O. Henry tries to argue this point, that those who live their lives in a conventional way and comply with the norms have a finite vision of life. For this reason, they do not explore the world beyond their socially defined boundaries.

For most people, it is easy to follow what is acceptable by society. Because not everyone has the courage to take risks. But those who end up being afraid to take risks only regret the opportunities they have not utilized. They miss many golden chances and their dream never becomes a reality.

However, not all adventures are as worthwhile as Rudolf’s. He could have knocked on any of the green doors in the building if he had noticed it before, and his adventure might not have been as pleasant. So those who do not risk taking adventures are on the safe side as the possibility that something unpleasant could happen while pursuing adventures is huge. But then again, life is about taking risks to make your dreams come true. Sometimes wonderful benefits can also be achieved as in the case of Rudolf. 

Rudolf leads two very different lives. He has one foot firmly anchored in convention and the other is always on the lookout for adventure. Not everyone is capable of doing it. But neither can we ignore the fact that Rudolf has no family or other responsibilities to take care of. He can afford the risks and uncertainties associated with adventures.

There is a straightforward meaning of the words on the card that Rudolf had received. “The Green Door” refers to the theater across the street, but Rudolf fails to notice it and comes across the young girl’s door. There is a chance that Henry is indicating how perceiving things differently can change one’s life. In this story, O.Henry encourages people to think out of the box, to be a nonconformist and to act in an unorthodox way.

Setting of the Story

The Green Door takes place in New York. O.Henry moved to New York in the latter part of his life. He wandered in the streets of New York in search of new ideas for his stories

Henry vividly describes the restless activity of the city in “The Green Door.” New York was a large cosmopolitan city full of foreigners, where everything was possible. 


The first two paragraphs are written from a second person’s perspective. O.Henry uses “you”  to immediately grab the reader’s attention and involve them in the story. He wants readers to envision what the “you” is doing in the story. In this case, he wants the readers to think of an adventure.

When the protagonist is introduced, the story is told from the third person’s perspective in the past tense and the narrator is anonymous.

When a story is told in the past tense. This implicitly means that the narrator knows what’s going to happen. And when that happens, it’s the last part of the story.

In the stories of O. Henry, the end is usually a surprise that the reader experiences with the protagonists.


O.Henry’s writing is vivid. In “The Green Door” he wonderfully uses the figurative language and creates an atmosphere that envelops the reader and evokes certain feelings.

 The story, “The Green Door” creates a sense of mystery and readers go through multiple emotions. They want to find out what’s going to happen next.

We find irony, imagery, simile, metaphor, personification and exaggeration in this story, which makes it full of fun. 


O.Henry tries to appeal to the five senses of the reader to help them envision the scene. For instance, the description of the food in the story shows how he appeals to the reader’s sense of taste.

 “On the table he laid them—bread and butter, cold meats, cakes, pies, pickles, oysters, a roasted chicken, a bottle of milk and one of red-hot tea.”


Personification is to attribute human characteristics to nonhuman things.

  • One example is when the narrator states, “In the big city the twin spirits Romance and Adventure are always abroad seeking worthy wooers. As we roam the streets they slyly peep at us and challenge us in twenty different guises.”

In these lines, the narrator personified “Romance” and “Adventure“. As these are not human beings who can “roam the streets” and “peep at us.”

  • Another example is, “She began to tell him her little story. It was one of a thousand such as the city yawns at every day.”

 Here, the city is personified by attributing to it the human characteristic of “yawning.”


“a new thrust in tierce”

Henry uses the phrase “a new thrust in tierce” as a metaphor to represent an urban dweller who is considering how to even the score with someone for their unethical behaviour at the workplace.



“Every half minute he chanted a harsh, unintelligible phrase akin to the jabber of car conductors and grand opera.”

Here, the author compares the black man’s chant to the “jabber of car conductors and grand opera.” Which means that his speech is incomprehensible.


Henry has used hyperbole in “The Green Door” to emphasize a particular idea. For instance, he gives an example of the “prodigal son” in the story and states that the prodigal son is a “fine example” of the true adventurer ” when he started back home. ”

The Prodigal Son” is a biblical story. In which the son after receiving his share of inheritance moves to a distant state. He wastes all his money on luxuries and extravagance . In a miserable state, he returns home. Reaching such a ladder for adventure is not a sensible thing. This is clear exaggeration. 

Another example of exaggeration is when O.Henry describes Rudolph as a “true adventurer,” and states that he often leaves his “hall bedchamber in search of the unexpected and the egregious.” However, Rudolf is not so brave as he does not go beyond his surroundings in search of adventures.


The very title of the story “The Green Door” is ironic. 

The irony comes at the point where what the reader expects from the title and what really happens in the story when the character knocks on the green door. The card that the black man gives to Rudolf is simply an advertisement of a play entitled “The Green Door” but his adventurous spirit leads him to an entirely different “Green Door” which shapes his destiny.


The green front door signifies traditional values ​​and standards. The girl is alone in the apartment. Yet, Rudolf opens the door and enters, which was socially unethical during those times. His act of opening the door symbolizes the breach of social limits and violation of cultural norms.