The Manipulation of a Stranger’s Viewpoint of One’s Self in A Cosmopolite in a Cafe

Last Updated: 24 May 2023
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In "A Cosmopolite in a Café", O. Henry uses the dynamic character, E. Rushmore Coglan, to explain how simple it is to manipulate a stranger's viewpoint of one's self. The preface reveals that a cosmopolite is one who has no single construct of "home." One who describes themselves as a cosmopolite finds no attachments to any one location; everywhere and anywhere can be defined as "home." E. Rushmore Coglan entered a busy New York café and attempted to portray himself as a cosmopolite. He wooed the speaker of the story, an unnamed woman, telling her tales his of adventures around the world. Unbeknownst to her, everything Coglan told her was short of the truth. Through Coglan, O. Henry exemplifies the simplicity of altering the truth to essentially become someone you are not.

Throughout the short story, the speaker made reference to a man-Adam. According to her description Adam was the epitome of a cosmopolite; the only "true" cosmopolite. She did not specify who Adam was, nor did she give many details of him. The speaker's point of view of Adam demonstrated how persuasive and unique he was; the speaker believed Adam possessed every aspect of what a "man of the world" is. With such a high standard set, the speaker had doubts of Coglan from the beginning. She "listened to his worldwide discourse fearful lest [she] should discover in it the local note of the mere globe-trotter" (Henry 5). This reveals that many times before the speaker has crossed paths with people claiming to be cosmopolites and in turn has been disappointed. Although Coglan, for the most part, fit the description of being a cosmopolite, the speaker was not easily persuaded.

Rushmore Coglan presented himself as a well-educated, wealthy, experienced businessman. From the "new attraction" he plans to establish in Coney Island (Henry 2), to his idea that no man should be defined by his "post office address" (Henry 12), Coglan does not (or at least convinced the speaker he is not) come across as the average everyday man. He is characterized as a confident man speaking with "kingly diversion," and 'taking the world in his hand... familiarly.' Coglan's confidence can easily be mistaken as arrogance as he thoroughly recites his luxuries' across the world:

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I pay rent on a room in Cairo, Egypt, and another in Yokohama all the year around. I've got slippers waiting for me in a tea-house in Shanghai, and I don't have to tell 'em how to cook my eggs in Rio de Janeiro or Seattle (Henry 17).

The text states that the speaker commented admiringly after this spiel. By the end of the short story E. Rushmore Coglan's boastful and cunning personality convinced the speaker that he was a true cosmopolite.

Special attention should be paid to Coglan's outburst at the woman's unfinished question. His anger and instability was evident when he slammed his fist on the table at the remark "Would you mind telling me, whether you are from...." Not only did Coglan despise being generalized to a specific location, he did not want others to be either. "What does it matter where a man is from?" (Henry 12) Colgan retorted. The tone used in this paragraph shows Colgan's anger towards the subject. It can be inferred that Colgan has had a personal experience of being stereotyped based on where he was born.

Colgan's behavior can be directly correlated to his hometown. The story ended with him getting into a barbaric bar fight with another man because of his negative remarks on his hometown, Mattawamkeag, Maine. This small town is only home to six- hundred eighty-seven people (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: 2010). Since he was undoubtedly well-informed on many different aspects of the world, he may have longed that he were not from such a small town. When the speaker inquired on who was fighting and why, she was confused to find out it was her 'cosmopolite.'

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The Manipulation of a Stranger’s Viewpoint of One’s Self in A Cosmopolite in a Cafe. (2023, May 24). Retrieved from

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