Gift of Magi short story criticism





Gift of Magi short story criticism

            This story is about Della and James Young. They are a poor couple who live in New York. They hardly earned enough so they did not get money to save. It was already the eve of Christmas, and Della did not have money to buy a present for her husband. She just had I dollar and seventy-five cents. This amount could not buy any worthy present. She felt so sad and frustrated and she could not help crying. She eventually decided to sell her hair and use the money to buy the present (Porter, 2006). Della’s character reveals great love and commitment to her husband. Despite the challenges of poverty, she shows determination and strong will.

Her hair and Jim’s watch were the most valuable things to this couple. Jim had inherited the watch from his father. His grandfather had it too so it was to be passed on to him. Della walked to Madame Sofronie’s store and sold her hair at twenty dollars. After receiving the money, she started her search for Jim’s present. Finally, she saw a chain for a watch. It perfectly suited Jim’s watch. She almost thought it was supposed to belong to Jim. They accepted to sell it to her at twenty-one dollars and she happily took it with her. Though the watch and hair were important to this couple, they did not surpass the love they had for each other (Porter, 2006).

At home, her husband arrived and got surprised at Della’s hair. She thought he was unhappy with her because she had taken away something they both treasured, without informing him. On the contrary, that was not the reason at all. In fact, he said nothing would make him love her less than he did (Henry, & Zweger, 57). Jim told Della to open the present he got for her. They were combs made from tortoise shells. She felt sad but grateful and the only thing she could tell him was that her hair would grow fast. It was her turn to present her gift. She showed him the chain for his watch and asked him to remove it. Jim was hesitant and he tried to change the subject. He told his wife that he had to sell the watch to afford the combs. It shows some irony but the greatest lesson is the sacrifice they made for each other because of love.

The story has themes of love, sacrifice, determination, poverty and wealth. Love is the greatest theme in this story. The couple is poor but both of them go out of their way to make each other happy. There is a mutual feeling of commitment. They both plan to buy gifts without consulting each other. This is a sign they care about each other and always think positively about the other partner. Their poverty does not come in between there love. Jim tells his wife that nothing she would change about he look that would make him love her less. They are not angry at each other because the other spouse sold a valuable item without consulting. They both understand it was all about love (Adams, Andy et al, 2000).

The gold pocket watch and Della’s hair were the most important things to this couple. It is amazing how both of them decide to give them up the same time for presents. According to the story, Della did not hesitate selling her hair. On the other hand, Jim did not also think twice about selling a souvenir for her wife’s happiness. It is quite uncommon to sell hair or any other component of the body. If it would happen, it is expected that the reason is a very critical issue. Regardless to this, Della goes ahead and sells her hair to buy a present. She was also very willing to do anything possible to make her husband happy.

The couple lives from hand to mouth. This is why they have to sell their valuables to buy simple things like presents. Jim used to earn thirty dollars a week but it reduced to twenty dollars. She had tried to save every penny she could but she only managed to get one dollar and seventy-five cents. The story says that sixty cents of that money was even in pennies. The story depicts the effects poverty among the people. They are both physical and psychological. Della feels frustrated and cries when she realizes she cannot get a present for her husband. She is forced to sell uncommon commodities to afford what she wants. This really shows high level of poverty. It seems she does not have a source of income and they just survive with the husband’s income. There is a minor theme of wealth depicted by the gold pocket watch. It was given to Jim’s father by grandfather and then to Jim. It seems Jim was raised in a well off family because it could afford a pocket gold watch (Henry, 1992).

The author has used different styles in her work. The most prominent is the symbol of magi. This were the three wise me who took gifts to the baby on the manger. Their names were Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar. All three were kings of Arabia, Persia and India respectively. They were from east and they traveled to Bethlehem to see the baby and give him gifts. They gave the baby gold, frankincense and myrrh. The presents were valuable but the magi valued the life and the presence of the world (Henry, & Zweger, 91).

Della and Jim are also considered to act like the wise men. The wise men carefully thought about the gifts to take to the baby. It is interesting to observe their humility. They were kings yet they went looking for the baby to worship him. Kings are selfish and feel superior. This is why Herod wanted to murder the baby. He did not want competition. The magi are not proud and arrogant. They considered the baby to be a king too. The same kind of humility is seen in the Young family. They chose wise gifts and went to preset them. Della and Jim carefully figured out how to get gifts for each other. Just like the way the magi traveled far, is equivalent to how the couple went out of their way to get the presents for each other. Though they were simple presents, they were very important to them (Adams, Andy et al, 2000).

Irony is depicted in this story. It was ironical for the couple to go t the extreme ends and the gifts became irrelevant to them at that moment. Della sold her hair yet Jim had bought her combs for Christmas. This was after selling his valuable pocket watch. Della decides to cut off her hair and sell to buy a chain for Jim’s watch. When the two meet to present their gifts to each other, they realize what is wrong (Henry, 1992). However, the most important thing is the intention of the action. They traded their valuables because of love. They did no get angry or regret their actions because they believed it was worth the effort. Della will just have to wait for her hair to grow and Jim will figure out something with the chain.

The story has made of use of number three as a symbol. The story has three characters namely Della, James and Sofronie. When Della is trying to analyze how much there is for her to buy a present, she counts her money thrice. This could be a sign of disbelief and disappointment because she does not have enough money (Porter, 2006). The persona says that life consists of sobbing, sniffling and smiling. These are three types of emotions mostly experienced by poor people. They do not have enough so they lament and feel sad but sometimes they get a reason to smile.

In “The Gift of the Magi,” the number three tends to appear prominently in the entire story. This symbolism and allusion first appears in the title of the story. The Magi are also known as the three wise men that traveled a long distance following the star in the search of the baby Jesus. In addition, these three Magi brought with them three gifts to present to this child, the gifts being gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In the belief that he was the promised one, the three wise men presented these three gifts to him unselfishly (Henry, 1992).

The symbolism of number three is further used the types of gifts that the queen of Sheba brought King Solomon. In order to display her royal nature, the queen brought with her spices, gold and jewels to present the wise king. The main characters depicted in the story also number to three: Della, Jim, and Madame Sofronie (Adams, Andy et al, 2000).

The setting of this story is in New York. The descriptions given by the author suggest it is in this city. The narrator talks of the couple living in a decent apartment and Della went to the hair shop across the street, from their apartment. He mentions an amusement park that is found in New York. It is called Coney Island. It is the most popular park in this city and it is Brooklyn. Another reason suggesting the setting of this story is where the author lived when he wrote and published this story. He lived in New York therefore; he used the city as the setting of his story (Moser & Henry, 79).

There are two main characters and one minor character. The major ones are Della and James and the minor is the hair shop owner called Sofronie. Della takes up a character of a woman with a positive attitude and never gives up. Even when money is not enough, she figures out what to do. She is submissive, loving and determined. She does everything possible to get a gift for his husband. It is evident she always wanted to make her husband happy. When she cuts her hair, she tries to style it appropriately and made nice food for her husband. She hoped that he would not be upset with her (Henry, & Zweger, 132).

James Young is a committed husband who evidently shows his love for his wife. He sells a valuable gold watch to buy her wife a simple present for Christmas. This is a noble act and it shows how much he could sacrifice for the happiness of his wife. He is good at adjusting to change. When she notices her wife has cut her hair it does not alter his love for her. What only worries him is that she will not use the combs he bought her. The minor character Sofronie is the owner of the shop where Della sold her hair. This story is a good example of lessons about love (Sauber, & Henry, 110).

Works cited

Adams, Andy, Alger Horatio et al. The literature network. Gift of magi. 2000. Web. Retrieved 24 March 2012.

Henry, O. Auburn. The gift of magi. 1992. Web. Retrieved 24 March 2012.

Moser, Barry, and O Henry. Good and Perfect Gifts: An Illustrated Retelling of O. Henry’s the Gift of the Magi. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997. Print.

Porter, William Sidney. Cumming study guides. The gift of magi. 2006. Web. Retrieved 24 March 2012.

  Sauber, Rob, & O Henry. The Gift of the Magi. MorrisPlains, N.J: Unicorn Pub. House, 1991. Print.

Henry, O. & Zweger, Lisbeth. The Gift of the Magi. Paw Prints, 2009. Print.


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