The short story Witches’ Loaves is deeper than it seems at first sight. On one side, it is a little bit funny, but, on the other hand, it is so sad and tragic. Like life in general. O’Henry describes one woman, the bakery owner. Miss Martha Meacham works every day, and her life seems to be limited with the walls of her bakery. It is only the first impression because her heart is so wide and innocent that it makes her world borderless.
Miss Martha notices a man who comes to her bakery a few times a week and buys stale loaves. His buying pushes her to thinking. She is wondering why he does not buy fresh loaves, perhaps he does not have enough money. Her assumption – he is poor. Once Miss Martha notices stain on his fingers, and it convinces her that this man is a poor artist. She draws a romantic image in her mind, how he paints and eats her bread. After her experiment with the picture, Miss Martha feels even more confident in her guesses. She meets the poor artist. The combination of her sympathetic nature and fellow feelings gives, as a result, love, dream and striving to help. She begins to dress up for him. Her sympathy grows to the unlimited sizes because he seems to become thinner and discouraged. This is the last push to the action which emerged to be a mistake.
Miss Martha’s dream closes the way to the real understanding of the situation. She thinks that only the poor person will buy stale loaves, and the rich will take only the fresh ones. The stain on the fingers, on her opinion, is evidence that the person is an artist. She does not suppose that there are other professions where people work with pencils. According to her logic, an artist definitely must live in a garret. Perhaps, she used to read too many book of the period of symbolism.
The Miss Martha’s tragedy is that she is looking for a dream and romantic feeling. It is the proof that she is not satisfied with her life. This striving and hope mislead her. Her good intentions pave her way to the hell; this means to the reality. It becomes obvious when she changes her clothes at the end.