The ‘Gift of Magi’ is a short story written by the celebrated American writer, William Sydney Porter. His pen name is ‘O. Henry’ and the story was created in 1906. O. Henry was a brilliant writer and most of his works are known for their exquisite charm, wordplay and excellent characterization with intricate story endings. His stories are commonly set during the early 20th century and deals mostly with the ordinary civilians. The Gift of Magi is a humorous and colorful love story that uses surprise endings and scenic coincidences. The story is about a young couple who are in love with each other. Both of them strives to buy each other a present for Christmas; however, because they are always in short of money buying a gift is sure to be expensive. Jim, Della’s husband sold his watch in order to buy a special comb inlaid with jewels for Della’s beautiful hair. Unknown to Jim, Della also desires to give her husband a special present and she could only think of one special possession that she could sell, her beautiful hair. Both the couples are foolish, because they never realized that since they are having a shortage of money, in order to buy a present, they will be forced to sell whatever possession they have. O. Henry believes that although both of them are foolish, their gifts are truly compared with those of the magi’s. Magi is a person who is associated with the priests in ancient Persia (Iran). In the story, the prevailing themes are mostly related to love. The couple’s love for each other signifies the theme that love knows no bounds and love is felt by the heart. Their sacrifice just to give each other gifts for Christmas proves that somehow on a different perspective they are wise enough to know that money is not an important thing on Earth. Money can be obtained by any means but love is not easy to be acquired. Their story was set on a small humble flat in New York City near the salon few kilometers down the street. The author portrays the couple’s apartment with appropriate descriptive words just for the readers to picture the whole scenery. O. Henry also described that everything was grey based from these excerpts:
“Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard.” (Henry and Lynch 2)
Asyndeton was observed due to the usage of conjunction ‘at’ was deleted in the phrase, ‘walking a grey fence in a grey backyard’. In addition, the description of the gadgets possessed by Della also tells the era by which the characters are living in. Della has a curling irons for her hair and a gas stove; the things that are present in her home depicts that the story is set exactly the same period of time like O. Henry’s. The story was narrated with full description which added to the picturesque image of a poor, young couple not to mention that the events are connected with realism. During O. Henry’s time, New York was known as Coney Island and the city includes the most well-known entertainment avenues and parks. It is also mentioned by O. Henry in the story, that Della had been fascinated with beautiful combs for a long time. She always observed the displays of combs from the glass cases of Broadway Window.
“One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies.” (Henry and Lynch 1).
It is quite noticeable that O. Henry used the word ‘one’ instead of the pronoun ‘her’ gave way in analyzing more about Della’s real character and situation whenever she asks for money. Though it is very hard for her to be in such a difficult situation, the story shows how strong her character is by ‘bulldozing the grocer’. O. Henry also implies Della’s thriftiness by the phrases, “three times Della counted it,” (Henry and Lynch 1). There are also some inclusions of repetitive sentences similar to the introductory statement of the story that somehow indirectly states her hopeless case. There are also repetitive adjectives such as the word, “grey” and the sentences, “She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard.” (Henry and Lynch 2). O. Henry used these words to further elevate the gloomy and sad atmosphere of the story. Furthermore, metaphors highlight Della’s mood in the story as a means of communicating with the reader about the true intentions and thoughts of the characters. The phrase “tripped by on rosy wings” is an example that describes Della’s happiness because she was already searching for the best gift for Jim by going on every store in New York. Moreover, O. Henry uses comparison to elaborate the cause-and-effect result after Della made a decision to sell her hair. O. Henry written sentence phrase, “within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy.” (Henry and Lynch 4) O. Henry also noted Della’s little worry whether Jim will like her new hairstyle or not. It was clearly shown in the story that her husband loves her long flowing hair, to the point of selling his own precious watch, an heirloom he inherited from his grandfather just to buy her a bejeweled comb to match the beauty of her hair. The phrase, “If Jim doesn’t kill me,” (Henry and Lynch 4) states the little worry she had on her mind. Simile, a poetic device was also used in the story to describe the color of Della’s hair. “Della’s beautiful hair fell like a cascade of brown water.”(Henry and Lynch 3). Moreover, when Jim learned that Della sold her precious hair just to give him a present, he became dumb and befuddled since he knew for the fact that it was her prized possession. The same goes for Della, though she was regretful when she sold the hair, it does not prevail in the story and her love for Jim erased her regrets upon selling her beautiful hair. She learned that her husband sold his watch too, in order to buy a present for her; a bejeweled comb for her hair. Now that they both knew that they had committed silly actions, the couple’s love did not falter. The story of ‘The Gift of Magi’ started with the setting of conflict in motion when the author stated that Della had a one dollar and eighty-seven cents which she aims to buy a Christmas gift for her husband. The story’s rising action begins when Della decided to sold her precious hair to Madame Sofronie for only twenty dollars. The amusing climax is that when Della’s husband saw her head bald, and Della was also having mixed reactions from their silly situation. The story’s falling action is that when the young couple realized that they truly loved each other when they sold their most valuable possession, no matter how silly their actions maybe. The sweet ending is when Della and Jim decided to dine together to celebrate the Christmas, which is the season for joy and sharing. O. Henry’s unique style of writing created a touching love story of wherein the true meaning of love and sharing prevails.
Henry, O and Patrick James Lynch. The Gift of the Magi. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2008. Print.