“107 – Freshman English – Cogito, Ergo Sum – I Think, Therefore I Am. » Blog Archive » The Gift of the Magi.” PENNCREST School District |Index of District and School Websites Web. 16 July 2010. <http://schools.penncrest.org/staff/tdouglas/index.php/2009/12/13/the-gift-of-the-magi/>.
O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” really pulls at the heart strings with its central theme. I believe the theme of this great Christmas story is how even though the gifts were not useful, the sacrifices made and the actual giving of the presents, is way more important than what the gifts were. In the end of this story, the narrator explains how “two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest.” (Henry n.page). They are wise because they gave up their precious belongings for the person they loved. The gifts were selfless, beautiful gifts. O. Henry also compares this couple to the most famous gift givers of all, 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 n.page). The magi travelled far and wide to bring the baby Jesus wonderful gifts. They did not think about how hard it would be to get there or how far they would have to travel, the act of giving this gift was way more important. O.Henry wanted there to be a direct connection between the couple in the story and the magi. He actually calls the this couple the magi in the last line of this short story. “O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.” (Henry n.page).
O. Henry explores this theme throughout the organization and structure of the story. O.Henry in the first line shows you exactly how poor this couple is and how they do not have money for Christmas gifts. ”One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies.” (Henry n.page). This was not enough money to buy a decent Christmas gift for the man you love. I think O. Henry wanted to show you right off the bat, the hardship that the wife, Della, was going through. The whole beginning of the story is describing the tough situation this couple is in money wise. ”A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.” (Henry n.page). This couple had enough to live, but certainly no room for the extras in life. “The income was shrunk to $20.. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are.” (Henry n.page). I think O.Henry’s way of organizing the story this way really was a good way to lead into the events that were going to occur through out the story. O. Henry had to show the readers how poor the couple was, so they can really appreciate the grandness of the presents and the giving in the story. If the couple was rich, he would have no story at all, so he had to explain this fact in the beginning of the story.
In “The Gift of the Magi”, O. Henry uses a third person point of view. This point of view really helps to expand the theme. Third person view allows the narrator to tell the story and also connect this couple to the bigger picture. At the end of the story, the narrator compares the couple to the magi. “They are the magi.” (Henry n.page). If O.Henry used a first person point of view, I do not think the narrators would compare themselves to the magi. Using this point of view, the narrator can show the great importance of this gift giving between this loving couple.
The setting in “The Gift of the Magi” is crucial to this story. First, O. Henry explains that it is Christmastime in this small town. “Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present.” (Henry n.page). Explaining that Christmas was the following day, shows how important purchasing a present for Jim is. Also, making it Christmastime, makes connecting the couple to the magi even more appropriate. The setting of the couple’s home is important, too. ”In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring… She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard.” (Henry n.page). O. Henry really does a good job showing that this couple’s house was nothing grand. Their little flat was dull and very small. It was nothing special at all.
O. Henry also uses great imagery in this short story. He displays the grandness of the only two items this couple possessed and how they cherished these things as much as they cherished each other. ”Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the air shaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.” (Henry n.page). Describing these gifts in such a way shows how much the couple loved these items. It also shows why the couple sought out to get gifts to go with these items they cherished. O. Henry then proceeds to described how beautiful Della’s hair is. ”So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her.” (Henry n.page). O. Henry showing how great her hair is, shows the sacrifice she has to make when she decides to cut it off for James’ present.
The characterization that O. Henry uses is key in this short story. O. Henry makes the character Della sensitive and caring. ”There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it.” (Henry n.page). O. Henry shows how upset Della is about not being able to give her husband a Christmas gift. This shows how important it is for Della to make some one else happy. Even though she does not have anything for herself, she is not crying over her own sorrows. She is crying because she cannot get something for James. O. Henry even shows how special Della really is. Through the tough time she is in, “the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes” still shown through. (Henry n.page). Even though the flat around her was “dull”, her eyes and her hair stood out. I think O. Henry wanted Della to stand out from her surroundings. Also, after Della cut her beautiful hair off, O. Henry shows us that Della does not like her new hair cut, but it was worth the sacrifice to get James’ present. ’If Jim doesn’t kill me,’ she said to herself, ‘before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do–oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?’ ” (Henry n.page). This was a totally selfless act that Della did. O. Henry really shows her true character through the acts she has made for someone else. Making Della this way, really displays the theme. If O. Henry did not create Della in such a way, you could not see the importance of the actions she makes.