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The Gift of the Magi

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The Gift of the Magi

Marlisa Allen

English 125: Introduction to Literature

Instructor Hamlin

September 3, 2012

The Gift of the Magi

"The Magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents." (Henry). In the works of literature, authors often use biblical terms to reveal the meaning of a short story. The Gift of the Magi is a popular short story by O. Henry that uses biblical allusions. By the use of this O. Henry ties in the many themes of this story. Sacrifice, poverty, and love are the many themes used throughout the story. The characters sacrifice their most valuable possessions for each others happiness. Poverty is emphasized all throughout the story repeatedly. The apartment and how the characters save every penny they have to use on each other are another theme in the story. The theme love in the story has the ultimate power and influence in the characters decisions. The author's use of many literary elements in this short story is used to reveal themes.

The main antagonist of the story is the society. The society throughout the whole story is very flat and does not change at all. Near the beginning, Della gets her wage from 30 bucks a month cut down to 20 bucks a month which does not help her get a good gift for Jim. Everything Della wanted to get was too expensive for her to afford and made her cut her own hair and sell it to buy Jim a nice gift for him. Without the society in play there would have been no major theme that it is originally. Society is always a static type of form because it never changes at all during the story. The proof of that is the money Della had at the beginning could not get her any gift she wanted to get for Jim at all. The main motivation that Della has is to have the best of everything. Della will not just settle for an average or cheap gift for Jim. Della needs to sacrifice her in in order to get Jim something nice. O. Henry shows the importance of Della's hair and how large of a sacrifice it was to cut it off by stating, "Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Young in which they both took mighty pride in. One was Jim's gold watch. The other was Della's hair." Della was so motivated to get Jim the perfect gift that she gave up her most prized possession.

Relate ability is an important component when writing a short story. If the story can relate to a wide variety of people, the amount of readers will increase. For the story, The Gift of the Magi, writer O.Henry did an excellent job of making this story apply to the majority of people in that time period. Critic Karen Charmaine Blansfield states, "There are a variety of reasons that readers like O.Henry. Perhaps one of the most important is that not all art is meant to appeal primarily to the intellect or intellectuals"(Blansfield). The protagonist or the main character of this short story is Della Young, the wife of James Dillingham Young. Della and Jim are a young married couple living in a cheap apartment. They are barely scraping by, and Della just found out that her check from work has been cut down from $30 dollars a week to $20. Christmas is tomorrow and Della needs to find a gift for Jim. Della would be considered a flat character. Throughout the whole story all she wants to do is find a Christmas present for Jim, and she is willing to go to any measures to find the perfect gift for him. Not once does she act selfish or put herself first, all of her actions relate to Jim, and she puts him before herself. Della only has $1.87 saved up from a month of work to buy Jim a Christmas present. She wants to get him something nice and that he will love. She decides to sell her hair, which is past her knees, for $20 to buy Jim a chain for his pocket watch. These events impact the story because Della is sacrificing one of her prized possessions, her hair, for Jim's happiness. Della would be considered a static character, or a character that remains unchanged, for many reasons. One being her focus is Jim, and also she was crying because she only had not even $2 to spend, so she did something about it and sold her hair. The goals of Della are pretty simple. She needs to buy a Christmas gift for her husband. This motivates her because she loves Jim and she wants to do something special for him. This phase, it is the thought that counts, does not apply to Della she is determined to buy him something he will cherish.

In the Gift of the Magi the setting plays a major role in describing the characters, Della and Jim. The place and time where Della and Jim are placed fits perfectly into the story and helps emphasize their dilemma. Although, the setting is not clearly stated in the story, O. Henry gave away many clues to give the reader an idea of where the story takes place.

Della and Jim live in a cheap, run-down apartment flat in New York City. While researching about O. Henry I found out that he placed a majority of his short story settings in New York City. One critic said, "O. Henry was a politic American short story writer who wrote about the life of ordinary people in New York City."(Overview). Since it was common for O. Henry to base his story in New York City, it made sense that that was where he would place Della and Jim. In the beginning of the story O. Henry states, "There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl." By saying the couch was shabby O. Henry gives off the clue that they do not have the best furniture. If Jim and Della had a nice apartment they would not have a beat up, broken-down couch in it. Also, while O. Henry is describing their apartment he mentions how much it costs, "Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat." Eight dollars is not a lot of money, so obviously this apartment flat isn't anything fancy or even nice. Since O. Henry has described their apartment as beat up, cheap, and run-down it really put an impact on the story. The setting really captures how little money Jim and Della have. It makes their sacrifice for the perfect gift look even greater.

The time that the Gift of the Magi took place was most likely in the late 1800's or the early 1900's. Most of O. Henry's works were based off of ordinary people he knew, so to have it the setting for this book placed in the late 1800's to the early 1900's would make sense. Also, O. Henry states in the story, "The 'Dillingham' had been flung to the breeze during a former



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