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Thesis- the Gift of the Magi

In: Novels

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The Gift of the Magi
"Gift of the Magi" is the story of a poor, young couple whose love for each other is the most important thing in their lives. Such is their love that they're led to sacrifice their most valuable possessions to find Christmas gifts for each other. The warm home they make together contrasts with the drabness of their poverty and the dreary world outside. Their love seems to know no bounds, though Della (the wife) worries about how her sacrifice will affect her husband because of how it affects her looks. If ever there were a story with the message that all you need to be happy is love, this is it.
The two main characters in "Gift of the Magi" are a husband and wife who give up their most precious possessions to be able to afford gifts for each other on Christmas Eve. The story seems to be all about sacrifice. We watch Della go through the process of deciding to make the sacrifice and going through with it, only to discover that her husband has made the same sacrifice. The story's narrator assures us that in their willingness to give up all they have, they have proven themselves the wisest of all gift-givers. It might remain unclear, though, exactly what their sacrifice has accomplished, or how it has affected them.
In many ways, "Gift of the Magi" is a story about what it means for something to be valuable. Does something's value lie in how much money it is worth? Or are other things more valuable than money? The main characters are very poor – this is repeatedly emphasized – and yet the story suggests that their love for each other makes them very rich. It is that love, which motivates them to give up the only things of monetary (or personal) value they have to buy presents for each other. Perhaps their poverty is what enables them to appreciate what really matters.
Women and Femininity
The main character of "Gift of the Magi" is a woman named Della. Loveable as she is, at times, Della is hysterical, often overreacting, a characteristic that the narrator identifies as "feminine." Della's complete and single-minded devotion to her husband could raise the question of whether the love in their relationship is between equals or based on a difference in power between the two.

Biblical Imagery
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
There's not a whole lot of imagery or metaphor in this story. That makes the few Bible allusions stand out all the more. There's the whole "magi" reference. The last paragraph compares Jim and Della to the three wise men who, according to the Christian New Testament, delivered gifts to Jesus on the first Christmas (see "What's Up with The Title?" for more on this comparison).
In addition, there are two other Biblical allusions, both made in connection with Jim and Della's prize possessions. Della's hair is said to be so gorgeous that it would inspire envy in the Queen of Sheba. Jim's watch would have been the envy of King Solomon. Both the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon are famous figures from the Old Testament.
What do all three of these references have in common, besides being Biblical figures? Well, they're all royal, very rich Biblical figures. The magi are often said to be kings, and brought Jesus three very expensive gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh), while Sheba and Solomon were both powerful monarchs renowned for their wealth and splendor. The comparison of Jim and Della's possessions to those of Biblical figures helps bring out how precious those two items are to their owners; to Jim and Della they're treasures, which they give away. But that's not all the images of Solomon and Sheba do. By bringing them up, and by mentioning the magi, O. Henry creates a sharp contrast between their spectacular riches and the obvious poverty and Jim and Della.
We have to wonder why O. Henry would do that. Because ultimately the story wants us to think about what it means to be truly rich. Where it really counts, Jim and Della are as rich as Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, and the magi, because they love each other. Just like the magi and Solomon (both figures famous for their wisdom), they're also wise, as the last paragraph tells us.
The Biblical imagery also beefs up the story's credibility as a parable. By invoking the Bible at moments, O. Henry makes "Gift of the Magi" feel more morally weighty.
Essentially, there are five types of imagery, each corresponding to one of our senses: visual, auditory, kinesthetic olfactory (smell), and gustatory(taste).
The key to good imagery is engaging all five senses.
Here are some examples of words specific to the five sensory systems:

Visual picture flash bright sharp clear see light dark large blue Auditory scream shout listen tone whisper ring utter nasal squeal quiet Kinesthetic feel warm grasp sharp peaceful cold rugged joyful fuzzy hard Olfactory pungent fragrant sweet dank rich aroma stinky musty rotten odor essence Gustatory sweet sour salty bitter fresh juicy bland burnt zesty tangy

The following examples will take you through all the senses and will guide you to evoke specific imagery internally. For best results, close your eyes during visualization.

To evoke visual imagery, visualize the following:
A shape: circle, triangle, square
An oak tree
A rose
A sailing boat
A button
A computer

To evoke auditory imagery, imagine the following:
The wind blowing through the trees
The ring on your telephone
The sound of your computer keyboard
Scales played on a guitar
Water lapping on a lake shore

To evoke olfactory imagery, conjure up the following smells:
Petrol fumes
Newly baked bread
New mown grass
Freshly brewed coffee

Gustatory (taste)
To evoke gustatory imagery, imagine the taste of:

Kinesthetic imagery can be further divided into: sense of touch, temperature, movement, and feelings.
Touch - imagine the feelings of:
Standing barefoot on a sandy beach
Running your fingertips on satin fabric
Holding a smooth pebble
Sunlight falling over your arm
Holding an ice cube
Stepping into a warm bath
Movement - feel yourself engaged in an activity:
Running on grass
Throwing a ball
Feelings - what does it feel like in your body to be:

These are the main five types of imagery. Engage as many senses as you can when you are doing visualization or guided imagery.

The four types of Point of Views are:
1. First Person Point of View - the one telling the story is involve in the story or a character in the story. It means the author itself is a character.
2. Third Person Point of View - the one telling the story is only a witness of the story. The persona is not involve in the story.
3. Omniscient Point of View - the reader knows everything about the story. Everything is revealed to the reader except to the characters.
4. Limited Omniscient Point of View - the reader does not know everything. There are hidden parts of the story that the reader don't know. Not everything is revealed to the reader.

A plot twist is a radical change in the expected direction or outcome of the plot of a novel, film, television series, comic, video game, or other work of narrative.[1] It is a common practice in narration used to keep the interest of an audience, usually surprising them with a revelation. Some "twists" are foreshadowed.
When a plot twist happens near the end of a story, especially if it changes one's view of the preceding events, it is known as a surprise ending.
It is often assumed that revealing the existence of a plot twist spoils a film or book, since the majority of the film/book generally builds up to the plot twist; however, at least one study suggests otherwise.[3]
A device used to undermine the expectations of the audience is the false protagonist. It involves presenting a character at the start of the film as the main character, but then disposing of this character, usually killing them. It is a red herring.

Surprise ending
A surprise ending is a plot twist occurring near or at the conclusion of a story: an unexpected conclusion to a work of fiction that causes the audience to reevaluate the narrative or characters.[2]
Mechanics of the twist ending
Anagnorisis, or discovery, is the protagonist's sudden recognition of their own or another character's true identity or nature.[6] Through this technique, previously unforeseen character information is revealed. A notable example of anagnorisis occurs in Oedipus Rex: Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother in ignorance, learning the truth only toward the climax of the play.[7] The earliest use of this device as a twist ending in a murder mystery was in "The Three Apples", a medieval Arabian Nights tale, where the protagonist Ja'far ibn Yahya discovers by chance a key item towards the end of the story that reveals the culprit behind the murder to be his own slave all along.[8][9]
In M. Night Shyamalan's 1999 film The Sixth Sense, a main character who believes he is alive, helping a boy to communicate with dead people, discovers that he is really dead. Similarly, another film to use it is the 2001 film The Others, in which a mother is convinced that her house is being haunted; at the end of the film, she learns that she and her children are really the ghosts. In the episode of The Twilight Zone titled "Five Characters in Search of an Exit", the protagonists discover at the climax, that they were discarded toys in a donation bin. Another example is in Fight Club, when Edward Norton's character realizes that Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) is his own split personality. Sometimes the audience may discover that the true identity of a character is in fact unknown, as in Layer Cake or the assassin in The Day of the Jackal.
Flashback, or analepsis, is a sudden, vivid reversion to a past event.[6] It is used to surprise the reader with previously unknown information that provides the answer to a mystery, places a character in a different light, or reveals the reason for a previously inexplicable action. The Alfred Hitchcock film Marnie employed this type of surprise ending. Sometimes this is combined with the above category, as the flashback may reveal the true identity of one of the characters, or that the protagonist is related to one of the villain's past victims, as Sergio Leone did with Charles Bronson's character in "Once Upon a Time in the West" or Frederick Forsyth's "The Odessa File".
Unreliable narrator
An unreliable narrator twists the ending by revealing, almost always at the end of the narrative, that the narrator has manipulated or fabricated the preceding story, thus forcing the reader to question their prior assumptions about the text.[6] This motif is often used within noir fiction and films, notably in the film The Usual Suspects. An unreliable narrator motif was employed by Agatha Christie in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, a novel that generated much controversy due to critics' contention that it was unfair to trick the reader in such a manipulative manner.[10] Another example of unreliable narration is a character who has been revealed to be insane and thus causes the audience to question the previous narrative; notable examples of this are in the Terry Gilliam film Brazil, Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club (and David Fincher's film adaptation), Gene Wolfe's novel Book of the New Sun, the second episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Premonition, Iain Pears's "An Instance of the Fingerpost", Shutter Island, and 'The Hitchhiker' from More Horowitz Horror by Anthony Horowitz.
Peripeteia is a sudden reversal of the protagonist's fortune, whether for good or ill, that emerges naturally from the character's circumstances.[11] Unlike the deus ex machina device, peripeteia must be logical within the frame of the story. An example of a reversal for ill would be Agamemnon's sudden murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra in Aeschylus' The Oresteia or the inescapable situation Kate Hudson's character finds herself in at the end of The Skeleton Key. This type of ending was a common twist ending utilised by The Twilight Zone, most effectively in the episode "Time Enough at Last" where Burgess Meredith's character is robbed of all his hope by a simple but devastating accident with his glasses. A positive reversal of fortune would be Nicholas Van Orton's suicide attempt after mistakenly believing himself to have accidentally killed his brother, only to land safely in the midst of his own birthday party, in the film The Game
Deus ex machina
Deus ex machina is a Latin term meaning "god out of the machine." It refers to an unexpected, artificial or improbable character, device or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction to resolve a situation or untangle a plot.[12] In Ancient Greek theater, the "deus ex machina" ('ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός') was the character of a Greek god literally brought onto the stage via a crane (μηχανῆς—mechanes), after which a seemingly insoluble problem is brought to a satisfactory resolution by the god's will. In its modern, figurative sense, the "deus ex machina" brings about an ending to a narrative through unexpected (generally happy) resolution to what appears to be a problem that cannot be overcome (see Mel Brooks' History of the World, Part I). This device is often used to end a bleak story on a more positive note.
Poetic justice
Poetic justice is a literary device in which virtue is ultimately rewarded or vice punished in such a way that the reward or punishment has a logical connection to the deed.[12] In modern literature, this device is often used to create an ironic twist of fate in which the villain gets caught up in his/her own trap. For example, in C. S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy, Prince Rabadash climbs upon a mounting block during the battle in Archenland. Upon jumping down while shouting "The bolt of Tash falls from above," his hauberk catches on a hook and leaves him hanging there, humiliated and trapped. Another example of poetic justice can be found in Chris Van Allsburg's picture book, The Sweetest Fig, where a cold-hearted dentist is cruel to his dog and ends up getting his comeuppance.
Chekhov's gun
Chekhov's gun refers to a situation in which a character or plot element is introduced early in the narrative.[13] Often the usefulness of the item is not immediately apparent until it suddenly attains pivotal significance. A similar mechanism is the "plant," a preparatory device that repeats throughout the story. During the resolution, the true significance of the plant is revealed. An example of this would be the geologist's hammer in The Shawshank Redemption, which the character Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) acquires early on in the movie. At the end, it is revealed that Dufresne has for the progression of the entire film, spanning over 19 years, secretly been using the hammer to tunnel an escape route out of the prison. Another example is seen in M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, where the significance of an early scene becomes apparent at the end, necessitating a different interpretation of all that has happened in between; in this case, it is not a physical device but an action which is pivotal to the outcome. Both Chekhov's gun and plants are used as elements of foreshadowing. Villains in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! were often Chekhov's guns—they would be introduced early on as "innocuous secondary characters", then ignored until they turned out to be the one in the scary costume driving people away to get at a hidden fortune. Citizen Kane introduced "Rosebud" early in the film both as a minor prop and as the major plot focus only to reveal what "Rosebud" really meant in the last scene. This is also shown in the film Seven Pounds when Will Smith's character calls the police at the beginning of the film to report his suicide. One of the most famous examples is the final scene of The Blair Witch Project, which seems nonsensical until the viewer remembers a seemingly unimportant comment much earlier in the film.
Red herring
A red herring is a false clue intended to lead investigators toward an incorrect solution.[14] This device usually appears in detective novels and mystery fiction. The red herring is a type of misdirection, a device intended to distract the protagonist, and by extension the reader, away from the correct answer or from the site of pertinent clues or action. The Indian murder mystery film Gupt: The Hidden Truth cast many veteran actors who had usually played villainous roles in previous Indian films as red herrings in this film to deceive the audience into suspecting them. In the bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code, the misdeeds of a key character named "Bishop Aringarosa" draw attention away from the true master villain. "Aringarosa" literally means "red herring." A red herring can also be used as a form of false foreshadowing.
In medias res
In medias res (Latin, "into the middle of things") is a literary technique in which narrative proceeds from the middle of the story rather than its beginning.[15] Information such as characterization, setting, and motive is revealed through a series of flashbacks. This technique creates a twist when the cause for the inciting incident is not revealed until the climax. This technique is used within the film The Prestige in which the opening scenes show one of the main characters drowning and the other being imprisoned. Subsequent scenes reveal the events leading up to these situations through a series of flashbacks. In Monsters, a similar beginning proves to be a flashforward as it is the linear conclusion of the events that then follow; this is not apparent until the end. In medias res is often used to provide a narrative hook.
Non-linear narrative
A non-linear narrative works by revealing plot and character in non-chronological order.[16] This technique requires the reader to attempt to piece together the timeline in order to fully understand the story. A twist ending can occur as the result of information that is held until the climax and which places characters or events in a different perspective. Some of the earliest known uses of non-linear story telling occur in The Odyssey, a work that is largely told in flashback via the narrator Odysseus. The nonlinear approach has been used in works such as the films Mulholland Drive, Sin City, Premonition, Pulp Fiction, the television show Lost (especially in many episodes in the later seasons), and the book Catch-22.[17][18] The most important works of Alejandro González Iñárritu are presented like this to us.
Reverse chronology
Reverse chronology works by revealing the plot in reverse order, i.e., from final event to initial event.[19] Unlike chronological storylines, which progress through causes before reaching a final effect, reverse chronological storylines reveal the final effect before tracing the causes leading up to it; therefore, the initial cause represents a "twist ending." Examples employing this technique include the films Irréversible and Memento, the play Betrayal by Harold Pinter, and Martin Amis' Time's Arrow.

Suspense is a crucial plot element in literature. The plot is the arrangement of the ideas or events that make up a story, and its elements determine the reader's experience. Its primary elements include not only plot but causality, foreshadowing, conflict, exposition, rising action, crisis and denouement as well. Suspense is the sense of anticipation or worry that the author instills in readers. M.H. Abrams, quoted on A Teacher Writes, defined suspense as "a lack of certainty, on the part of a concerned reader, about what is going to happen." It draws readers into a story and creates a sense of momentum.
Create many potential paths to a defined goal. The first rule of suspense is to leave the plot open from the onset, but with a more or less clear objective. Detective novels follow this rule closely: The detective must solve a particular crime, but how he will solve it or what paths will unravel the mystery are unknown from the beginning. Hardy Boys novels consistently follow this rule, often resolving a known crime by an unexpected path. Progression Instill a sense of progression and movement in the plot. In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, readers sense from the beginning that the couple will fall in love and, likewise, sense the way in which this will be problematic: They come from rival families. This sense of movement makes readers tense and draws them into the plot. Intensity Increase the intensity of the story as the reader approaches the climax. Raise the stakes of the crime. In literary mysteries, such as those by Agatha Christie, the perpetrator of the crime that the detective hopes to solve commits additional murders, or threatens those who are trying to catch him. As the detective comes closer to solving the crime, he also places himself in greater and greater danger. This heightens the excitement of the reader as he approaches the climax of the story. Detail Focus on details as the story progresses. Turnings of keys, door knocks, thumbs, clothing caught on hooks---these are the small details that raise the readers' attention level and draw them into the story. The more small details are included in the story, the more the reader will tend to imagine outcomes and possibilities, and this increases a sense of suspense. Most suspenseful works requires several chapters to cover the outcome of the mystery at hand because a successful redaction requires many details. Close Calls Finally, authors of suspenseful literature create close calls or "red herrings," a literary term for false solutions. This keeps the plot from becoming predictable and keeps readers on their toes. An author of a suspenseful work might progressively disprove all the usual suspects, leaving the reader wondering in greater anticipation who could have committed the crime. When readers' expectations are upset, they begin focusing with greater intensity on all clues or aspects of the plot, and this focus creates an atmosphere of suspense.

Allegory - narrative form in which the characters are representative of some larger humanistic trait (i.e. greed, vanity, or bravery) and attempt to convey some larger lesson or meaning to life. Although allegory was originally and traditionally character based, modern allegories tend to parallel story and theme.

William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily- the decline of the Old South Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- man’s struggle to contain his inner primal instincts District 9- South African Apartheid X Men- the evils of prejudice Harry Potter- the dangers of seeking “racial purity”

Character - representation of a person, place, or thing performing traditionally human activities or functions in a work of fiction

Protagonist - The character the story revolves around. Antagonist - A character or force that opposes the protagonist. Minor character - Often provides support and illuminates the protagonist. Static character - A character that remains the same. Dynamic character - A character that changes in some important way. Characterization - The choices an author makes to reveal a character’s personality, such as appearance, actions, dialogue, and motivations.

Look for: Connections, links, and clues between and about characters. Ask yourself what the function and significance of each character is. Make this determination based upon the character's history, what the reader is told (and not told), and what other characters say about themselves and others.

Connotation - implied meaning of word. BEWARE! Connotations can change over time.

confidence/ arrogance mouse/ rat cautious/ scared curious/ nosey frugal/ cheap

Denotation - dictionary definition of a word

Diction - word choice that both conveys and emphasizes the meaning or theme of a poem through distinctions in sound, look, rhythm, syllable, letters, and definition

Figurative language - the use of words to express meaning beyond the literal meaning of the words themselves

Metaphor - contrasting to seemingly unalike things to enhance the meaning of a situation or theme without using like or as You are the sunshine of my life. Simile - contrasting to seemingly unalike things to enhance the meaning of a situation or theme using like or as What happens to a dream deferred, does it dry up like a raisin in the sun Hyperbole - exaggeration I have a million things to do today. Personification - giving non-human objects human characteristics America has thrown her hat into the ring, and will be joining forces with the British.

Foot - grouping of stressed and unstressed syllables used in line or poem

Iamb - unstressed syllable followed by stressed Made famous by the Shakespearian sonnet, closest to the natural rhythm of human speech How do I love thee? Let me count the ways Spondee - stressed stressed Used to add emphasis and break up monotonous rhythm Blood boil, mind-meld, well- loved Trochee - stressed unstressed Often used in children’s rhymes and to help with memorization, gives poem a hurried feeling While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, Anapest - unstressed unstressed stressed Often used in longer poems or “rhymed stories” Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house Dactyls - stressed unstressed unstressed Often used in classical Greek or Latin text, later revived by the Romantics, then again by the Beatles, often thought to create a heartbeat or pulse in a poem Picture yourself in a boat on a river, With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.

The iamb stumbles through my books; trochees rush and tumble; while anapest runs like a hurrying brook; dactyls are stately and classical.

Imagery - the author’s attempt to create a mental picture (or reference point) in the mind of the reader. Remember, though the most immediate forms of imagery are visual, strong and effective imagery can be used to invoke an emotional, sensational (taste, touch, smell etc) or even physical response.

Meter - measure or structuring of rhythm in a poem

Plot - the arrangement of ideas and/or incidents that make up a story

Foreshadowing - When the writer clues the reader in to something that will eventually occur in the story; it may be explicit (obvious) or implied (disguised). Suspense - The tension that the author uses to create a feeling of discomfort about the unknown Conflict - Struggle between opposing forces. Exposition - Background information regarding the setting, characters, plot. Rising Action - The process the story follows as it builds to its main conflict Crisis - A significant turning point in the story that determines how it must end Resolution/Denouement - The way the story turns out.

Point of View - pertains to who tells the story and how it is told. The point of view of a story can sometimes indirectly establish the author's intentions.

Narrator - The person telling the story who may or may not be a character in the story. First-person - Narrator participates in action but sometimes has limited knowledge/vision. Second person - Narrator addresses the reader directly as though she is part of the story. (i.e. “You walk into your bedroom. You see clutter everywhere and…”) Third Person (Objective) - Narrator is unnamed/unidentified (a detached observer). Does not assume character's perspective and is not a character in the story. The narrator reports on events and lets the reader supply the meaning. Omniscient - All-knowing narrator (multiple perspectives). The narrator knows what each character is thinking and feeling, not just what they are doing throughout the story. This type of narrator usually jumps around within the text, following one character for a few pages or chapters, and then switching to another character for a few pages, chapters, etc. Omniscient narrators also sometimes step out of a particular character’s mind to evaluate him or her in some meaningful way.

Rhythm - often thought of as a poem’s timing. Rhythm is the juxtaposition of stressed and unstressed beats in a poem, and is often used to give the reader a lens through which to move through the work. (See meter and foot)

Setting - the place or location of the action. The setting provides the historical and cultural context for characters. It often can symbolize the emotional state of characters. Example – In Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, the crumbling old mansion reflects the decaying state of both the family and the narrator’s mind. We also see this type of emphasis on setting in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice.

Speaker - the person delivering the poem. Remember, a poem does not have to have a speaker, and the speaker and the poet are not necessarily one in the same.

Structure (fiction) - The way that the writer arranges the plot of a story.

Look for: Repeated elements in action, gesture, dialogue, description, as well as shifts in direction, focus, time, place, etc.

Structure (poetry) - The pattern of organization of a poem. For example, a Shakespearean sonnet is a 14-line poem written in iambic pentameter. Because the sonnet is strictly constrained, it is considered a closed or fixed form. An open or free form poem has looser form, or perhaps one of the author’s invention, but it is important to remember that these poems are not necessarily formless.

Symbolism - when an object is meant to be representative of something or an idea greater than the object itself.

Cross - representative of Christ or Christianity Bald Eagle - America or Patriotism Owl - wisdom or knowledge Yellow - implies cowardice or rot

Tone – is the implied attitude towards the subject of the poem. Is it hopeful, pessimistic, dreary, worried? A poet conveys tone by combining all of the elements listed above to create a precise impression on the reader.
What’s Up With the Ending?

O. Henry is known for his "twist endings," and the ending of "The Gift of the Magi" is probably the most famous of them all. At the end of the story Della cuts and sells her hair to buy Jim a chain for his watch, and Jim sells his watch to buy Della combs for her hair. Here we have a classic case of irony. The determination to find the perfect gift leads each character to make a sacrifice; that sacrifice makes each gift useless. The result is the exact opposite of what Jim and Della intended. What makes this ending so bittersweet is that it only comes about because they acted on their intentions: their gifts wouldn't have been useless if they hadn't given up their prize possessions. And since we follow only Della in the story, we don't know what has happened until the very end, during the exchange itself. It's the sudden, unexpected irony, which only strikes at the very end that makes the ending a twist.

Now that we've talked about what makes the ending a twist, let's ask another question: how do we feel about the ending? From one perspective, it's disastrous. Jim and Della seem much better off before the gift exchange. At the end, they have exchanged their most prized possessions to buy each other gifts that are now useless. Their original possessions – the watch and the hair – were valuable on their own. Not only that, their original possessions seem more precious because they were theirs – Jim's watch was a family heirloom passed down from his granddad, and Della's hair was literally a part of Della. Their gifts, on the other hand, are just new store-bought things that have no special connection to either person. Since each person wanted to buy the other the perfect gift, this means they have both failed colossally.

But then there's the narrator's perspective in that last paragraph, according to which the gifts they've given each other are the "wisest" gifts of all, the "gifts of the magi." If we agree, then of course they've succeeded in what they wanted to do. Both Jim and Della have shown that they're willing to sacrifice the most valuable thing they have to give something to the other. That makes their "useless" gifts incredibly valuable after all: the selfless love each feels for the other is embodied in those gifts. As long as they have the gifts, they'll be able to remember it. That kind of thing can't be bought. And it makes the gifts even more special and personal than what they replaced.

Which leads us to another point. Before the exchange, Jim and Della each had one prize possession. Each possession was valuable on its own and belonged to each person individually. The watch was Jim's, and the hair was Della's. Both possessions are sacrificed. In the exchange, each gains something new, which doesn't have any sentimental value as a token of their love for each other. That love isn't something they have as individual, it's something they share together. So in the gift exchange, the two of them come closer together in a very concrete way.

Yes, endings can't get much sappier than this. But just admit it. Don't you love it anyway?
Suspense and Irony in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Gift of the Magi”
The two short stories “A Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe and “The Gift of the Magi” by O’ Henry were two short stories that showed the writing skills of their authors. O’ Henry and Poe were two writers from different time periods, but use the same literary techniques in their works. Irony is defined as “a contradiction between expectation and reality” and suspense as “the growing interest and excitement felt while awaiting a climax or resolution.” O’ Henry and Poe used either suspense, irony, or both to make their stories more intense for the readers. “The Gift of the Magi” is centered on two main characters Jim and Della. It is a Christmas themed story in which a poor couple find themselves in a difficult situation when looking to buy presents for each other, when they find out them both have no money. Jim’s pride and joy is a golden watch and Della’s most prized possession is her hair. But when they both go to buy presents for each other they both sell their most prized possessions to buy gifts. When they show each other there presents they are shocked to find Della bought a chain for Jims watch, and Jim bought combs for Della’s hair! The irony in this story is that they both bought gifts for each other, which they could no longer use. It uses a specific type of irony called situational irony it is defined as “an event occurs that directly contradicts the expectations of the characters, the reader, or the audience.” The author used this type of irony to surprise the readers, and directly relate it to the biblical story of the three magi. It adds a sense of humor when the readers find out what they did, but also a connection towards the characters feelings.
What are the satirical of this story the gift of the magi?
The fact that both sold what the other bought a gift to be used for.
The Gift of the Magi Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation
"One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all." (1)
The story's opening sentences confront us right away with the problem: Della only has $1.87 to buy a Christmas present, and it's Christmas Eve. After the first paragraph, the narrator gives us a bit more fleshing out of the situation. Della's in a meager flat, she and her husband Jim are poor, she loves her husband more than anything else in the whole world. Plus, she positively needs to buy him the perfect Christmas present. With $1.87. When Della lets down her hair, we also learn the other most important fact for the story: her hair and Jim's gold watch are the only prized possessions the couple has. Everything is now set up for the rest of the story to unfold.

Della sells her hair.
The conflict is supposedly the moment where the "problem" in the story appears, but this story began right from the first with a problem. In "Gift of the Magi" the point of conflict actually solves the first problem and replaces it with a second. By selling her hair, Della gets the money to buy Jim a great present, eliminating the first problem through decisive action. Shortly thereafter she finds the perfect present, so neither the money nor the present is the issue any longer. But now there's a new problem: will Jim be pleased by Della's action and appreciate her gift, or will he be angry with her for parting with the hair he loved so much?

Jim is shocked by Della's short hair.
When Jim arrives, he doesn't seem to react well: he stares at Della and can't seem to process that her hair is gone. But it doesn't look like he's angry, so much as simply shocked. Della can't quite understand what kind of reaction he's having, nor can we. This creates suspense; we want to know what it is he's actually feeling. We also want to know how he'll react to Della's gift. When Jim snaps out of his shock, he tells Della (and us) that his reaction will make sense when Della opens the present he bought her…

When Della opens Jim's present to find the combs, we understand why Jim was so shocked. It also becomes clear now that he's not angry with Della, and he assures her he'll love her no matter how she looks. Although the climax doesn't fully "predict" the ending, it is the first half of the twist. And if we do get to thinking about where Jim got the money to buy those combs, we might be able to guess what happens next.

Della's Turn
We're still waiting to know how Jim will react to Della's gift, and we might also be wondering just how he got the money to buy those expensive combs. Della gives Jim the watch chain, and…

So…how about those pork chops?
Presented with his gift, Jim calmly reveals (with a smile) that he sold his watch to buy Della her combs. So her present is useless too. Well, that does it for the Christmas presents. Not much left to do but eat those pork chops.

Pretty fly for magi.
In the narrator's final paragraph, which is definitely a "zoom out" of epic proportions, the narrator tells us that it doesn't really matter that Jim and Della's presents turned out to be useless. They are the wisest givers of all – in fact, they're the magi. We leave feeling satisfied and happy.
The Gift of the Magi Tone
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Wise, A Bit Preachy, Grandfatherly
The narrator of "Gift of the Magi" is not a character, but he's certainly not a neutral observer either. Rather, he comes across distinctively as a person, and one who's telling you a story, maybe even at your bedside. He's willing to take breaks from the "action" of the story to paint a vivid scene. The narrator seems to speak directly to his "audience":
While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. (3)
The narrator also take breaks from the action to "make a point." He speaks as if he's seen the world and understood it well – he's wise, in other words – and he wants to teach you some lessons about it. Mainly on the nature of gift-giving, but he's plenty happy making short but sweeping statements about other things – like the nature of life, love, or women – while he's at it:
Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating. (2)
She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task. (20)
Although it might feel slightly heavy-handed at times, on the whole the narrator seems like a very gentle, well meaning, and wise fellow.
Drabness, Drabness Everywhere
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
To contrast with the "inner richness" of Della and Jim's love for each other, O. Henry throws in lots of little details to make their external circumstances about as drab and meager as can be.
There's the flat itself, with its malfunctioning mailbox, dead doorbell, worn red carpet, and cheap mirror equivalent. There's the dull scene out the window: a "gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard" (6). There's Della's "old brown jacket" and "old brown hat" (11), and Jim, with his worn overcoat and gloveless hands. All of this imagery creates a contrast between the rich, warm, inner world of love and affection which Della and Jim create, and the gray, ugly, outer world of money and work and miserly, hair-buying business owners. Their love transforms their flat from a particularly drab part of that dreary world into a home.
The Gift of the Magi Setting
Where It All Goes Down
A drab flat in a gray city on Christmas Eve
The narrator calls our attention almost immediately to the two most important details of the story's setting: it takes place on a Christmas Eve, and its two main characters live in a very unassuming flat. The action of the story depends on the fact that Christmas is sufficiently close that Della needs to buy a present now, even with her small amount of money. The couple's very humble abode brings out their poverty vividly. It's their poverty which both forces them to make the sacrifices they do, and which makes those sacrifices meaningful. O. Henry sketches the flat with just enough detail to convey an image of its squalor: it's cheap, sparsely furnished, and has a broken mailbox and a broken doorbell.
The drabness of the physical setting in which Jim and Della live creates a contrast with the warmth and richness of their love for each other. The fact that everything outside the flat is "grey" – Della watches a "gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard" (6) – develops the contrast even further. Inside, we get the sense, Jim and Della's affection creates a welcoming love nest, in spite of the flat's humble nature. Outside, it's a cold, gray world, and one that is about as uncaring as Madame Sofronie.
As for the larger "where and when," we don't have much in the way of specifics. It is possible the story is set in a city – "flats" are the kind of thing you often associate with cities – but not necessarily so (the flat has a backyard, which is a little less urban). From the "gas" which Della lights (20) and the gadgets she has (i.e., a stove and curling irons), it is a safe bet that the story is set just about the time O. Henry wrote it (first decade of the 20th century), or slightly earlier.
The Gift of the Magi Narrator:
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
Third Person (Omniscient)
Technically, the story seems to be third person limited omniscient. It's told in the third-person, and only follows Della. We don't see what Jim is doing during the story, and once he does show up, he remains closed to us: we don't know what his reaction to Della's hair is any more than Della does.
We can't be entirely satisfied with this classification, though, because the narrator has such an independent personality and seems to know a lot more than Della does at times. He's "The Storyteller." It's as if he sees everything, but usually limits himself to Della's point of view by choice for storytelling purposes. If the narrator described everything that were going on, he'd ruin the surprise ending.
We know the narrator is really more like an omniscient being, though, because every so often he "zooms out" to make much more general pronouncements that fly way above the action of the story's characters. The most obvious of these is at the end, when he mentions "the magi" (to which Della and Jim are totally oblivious). But there are other places too, like when he zooms out from the weeping Della to describe the flat. There are also all those moments when he makes a more universal remark about "the way life is," such as, "Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating".
The Gift of the Magi Genre
The key feature of a parable is that it uses a situation, which feels very simple to make a more complex or general point, often a moral one. (Also, unlike a fable, a parable does this with people, not animals.) This classification defines "The Gift of the Magi," which is a remarkably simple story. It boils down to a few bare essentials: Della and Jim are poor, but love each other very much; they each want to buy the perfect Christmas gift for each other; they each have one prized possession which they give up to buy the other a present, and the presents they buy are meant for the prized possessions they've sacrificed. You don't need to know almost anything else about the story to "get it," and there's very little in the story itself that doesn't serve to develop one of those elements.
That there is actually something specific to get is the other reason "The Gift of the Magi" is a parable: it has a point, and yes, it is a moral one. This story is about what it means to give a gift. All of the elements of the story serve to bring that point across. And yes, the slightly "preachy" tone of the story is part of the parable. That last paragraph especially, which is just a slightly more stylish version of the "moral" that predictably comes at the end of an Aesop fable.
The Gift of the Magi Writing Style
Oral, Simple, Informal (and spun together from incomplete sentences)
The story is narrated as if someone were telling it to you aloud. How does O. Henry achieve this effect? Basically he breaks grammar rules. There are lots of sentences that aren't really sentences, like the opening one: "One dollar and eighty-seven cents" (1). There's no verb or action in that sentence; it just states a sum of money. We need more information about what that sum of money "means" or "does" in order to understand the sentence. We get that information in the next sentence: "That was all" (1). Although the second sentence at least has a verb, it's also technically not a complete sentence: the subject, "that," is unspecified, and only makes sense given the previous sentence.
Likewise, the narrator is fond of starting sentences with words that grammar sticklers would say you're not supposed to start with, like "And" or "Which." This also has the effect of making one sentence hinge on the sentence before. (And if you look, you'll notice that Shmoop does this sometimes too – it's part of what makes us and O. Henry sound conversational.)
Looking at those first two sentences clues us in on how the story's style tends to operate as a whole: lots of short sentences that often depend on other sentences in order to work. This technique has a way of weaving together the story across individual sentences and gives it a flow that would be broken apart by writing in more complete, self-contained sentences. It's typical of the ways we tell stories when we speak. This style keeps listeners hanging on from one sentence to the next. It also prevents them from getting lost in overly long sentences. Since when you're listening to a story you can't go back and read a sentence again, it's important that you don't get lost. If you get caught on a particular sentence it might make you lose the thread of the whole story.
Of course, as O. Henry is trying to capture that feel of telling a story orally, he also throws in plenty of addresses to his audience of listeners, as in, "Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends – a mammoth task" (20). This further creates the feeling that he is talking directly to us.
What’s Up With the Title?
"The Gift of the Magi" is about a young couple who sacrifice everything they have of value to give each other the best Christmas present. And who invented the practice of giving Christmas presents in the first place? The magi, at least according to the Christian tradition. You might also have heard of the magi as the "three kings" (as in the famous Christmas carol, "We Three Kings of Orient Are") or the "three wise men." According to the Christian Bible, the magi were the trio of kings who traveled to Bethlehem from somewhere in the east (probably Persia) to deliver three presents to the baby Jesus.
According to the story, the magi were wise folks. The gifts the magi gave to Jesus must have been wise too (as the narrator of "The Gift of the Magi" suggests at the end of the story). These gifts must have been the smartest, best gifts anyone could have chosen. And according to the narrator, that makes the two characters in this story – Jim and Della – just like the magi: they gave each other the wisest gifts of all.
Character Analysis
Della: One Devoted Woman
Della is the loving, warm, selfless, and occasionally hysterical heroine of the story. Della's financially poor. She spends all of her days in a cramped flat, as "mistress of the home" (3). In other words, she's a homemaker. Della basically lives for one thing (or rather, person): Jim, her husband. She's spent a lot of the time leading up to Christmas just thinking of what to get him:
She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. (5)
As you might gather from that, Della throws just about every bit of energy she has into being good to Jim. She's been saving for months just to round up money for a Christmas present. She has even endured the humiliation of pinching pennies at stores.
He may not be bringing in much money, but Jim is the cat's pajamas for Della. He deserves the absolute best, which is why she's so set on getting him the perfect present: "Something fine and rare and sterling – something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim" (6).
Della is willing to go to any length to achieve this goal, and ends up selling her one prized possession – her hair – to do it. Although she sheds a tear or two over the hair, really it doesn't seem to affect her that much. She doesn't even think it's much of a choice. She has to get Jim a present: "I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again – you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it" (28).
In fact, the thing that seems to bother Della most about losing her hair is that Jim likes it so much. She's worried he won't find her pretty anymore (though she doesn't really have anything to worry about). She barely seems to think of herself at all. That's devotion.
Is Della Too Devoted?
Della's so devoted, in fact, you might be a little bit bothered. It might be difficult to define Della apart from Jim: she lives for her husband. But it looks like her husband might live only for her too. After all, he sacrifices his watch – which is a precious object that's been passed down through his family for generations (and won't grow back) – to get her a gift. And given how humble their circumstances are, and how hard his work must be, it's not clear what else he would have to live for besides Della. So is Jim just as devoted to Della as Della is to Jim? It's likely that he is.
If that's the case, though Della and Jim definitely play different roles, they're in a relationship of equality, and equal devotion. That makes Della's own devotion less strange, and kind of wonderful – like it's supposed to be. Della and Jim's utter devotion to each other is the whole point of the story, after all. It's because of this devotion that both sacrifice their only prized possessions to get gifts for each other. That selflessness is what makes them wise givers – magi – and what teaches us the lesson about the meaning of giving that the narrator wants to get across.
Still, it's true that we don't actually ever get to go inside Jim's head and see whether he loves her as much as she loves him. So if you want to be skeptical of the narrator's heartwarming ending and be cynical about Della, we suppose you can.
Della's Hysteria
But you might still find one more complaint to make about Della. She might seem unrealistically emotional. The very first thing we see her do is collapse into a sobbing fit on the couch. And once she gets Jim's present, she shrieks in ecstasy only to burst into tears almost immediately afterwards:
And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat. (37)
Not only that, throughout the story Della just seems on edge, as if she were continuously overexcited. Do you ever notice how Della never just walks or turns, she "suddenly whirls"? As in "suddenly she whirled from the window" (8) or "with a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door" (11). Then there's the time when she "leap[s] up like a little singed cat and crie[s] 'Oh, oh!'" just because she wants Jim to have his present so badly (40).
Yes, Della's a little on the excitable side, to say the least. You might find it particularly irritating that the narrator seems to think that's part of what it means to be "feminine" (let's remember that O. Henry wrote this story in 1906). Still, in our opinion, Della's excitement is more something to make you chuckle. It makes her more lovable. Della's just head over heels in love. That inflates the importance of just about everything, and makes it rather easy to swing from the heights of happiness to the depths of despair in a matter of seconds. Can't we all relate to that a bit?
(As for Della's sudden eruption of wails over Jim's present, our opinion is that there's a reason for that too: it's only at that moment that it really hits her that her hair is actually gone.)
Character Analysis
Jim's job is not so great. He's the only breadwinner for the Dillingham Young family (that is, him and Della), and it seems he works long hours, but his salary is low. And it recently went from bad to worse: whereas he used to make $30 a week he's now down to just $20. He and Della are struggling just to pay the expenses of their small flat. So if Jim happens to seem a little tired, serious, overworked, and perhaps a tad underweight, there's a good reason for it.
He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves. (22)
The one thing that keeps Jim going is his love for Della. She's his Della (33).We don't get half as much exposure to his feelings as we do for Della's, but all evidence points to him being just as devoted to her as she is to him. Just like Della, Jim gives up his most precious possession to find a perfect gift for the person he loves. And it's not just because of her looks, even though she worries about them:
"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less." (35)
Why does Jim love Della so much? Probably in part because she loves him so much.
You may have noticed that Della is also a little jumpy. Jim's definitely the more levelheaded one in the relationship. While she reacts to his present with shrieks and wails, he just reacts to hers by rolling onto the couch and smiling (43).
Madame Sofronie
Character Analysis
Madame Sofronie is the owner of a hair shop, which, we are told, sells "hair goods of all kinds" (12). She is "large," "white," and "chilly" (12). Her manner is direct and to-the-point: she doesn't give off any signs of being impressed by Della's gorgeous hair, and casually offers to buy it for $20.
Madame Sofronie's attitude creates a sharp contrast to that of Della and Jim. For both of them, Della's hair is a prized possession – her only prized possession – and Della's sale of it amounts to an enormous sacrifice. None of this matters to Madame Sofronie, for whom it's just another business transaction, which will perhaps fetch a bit more profit. You could say she represents "the cold, uncaring world" which exists outside the haven of love Della and Jim have built for themselves. She also represents a very different way of valuing things – purely for the money they fetch.
The gold of the watch may symbolize several things: love, purity, money (which the couple lacks), and eternity (gold does not rust or tarnish). Some interpreters believe that because it is a Christmas story, the gold in this tale symbolizes divinity, such as Jesus or God himself.
The watch in the story can represent time, the future (which the couple hopes to spend together), the end of the year, or eternity. It may represent the couple's transition from starry-eyed youths to mature and generous individuals.
The young wife's hair in the story can symbolize many things: youth (young women generally wear their hair longer), vitality and sexuality. In a way, by giving up her hair, the woman in the story is agreeing to give her youth, sexuality, and "best years of her life" to her husband.
The combs are a symbol of the young husband's love for his wife, as he gave up his most precious possession so that his wife would be happy and beautifully adorned. Since grooming and arranging hair is such an intimate act, the combs may also be subtly symbolic of the sexual attraction between husband and wife.
Like the combs, the watch chain is a symbol of the wife's love for her husband. She has just as much emotional attachment to her hair as he did to his watch. Yet she gave it up willingly to purchase the one thing she thought would bring her husband happiness. The chain may also symbolize their marriage, an institution that provides a "link" between two people.
Since the story takes place at Christmastime, the season can be said to represent the original Magi, who were wise men who visited the Baby Jesus. Reports differ as to whether they were actually present at the birth, or arrived afterwards. Regardless, sources generally agree that they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh -- valuable items in the ancient world.
Metaphors are comparisons used effortlessly in everyday life, such as likening a fever to a fire by saying "My head is burning." Authors purposely craft metaphors to shape reader understanding of characters and stories. The title of O. Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi" reflects its central metaphor, which compares a young couple's selfless love to the generosity of the Biblical wise men -- magi -- who gave baby Jesus gifts.
Author and Story Summary
O. Henry was the pen name of William Sydney Porter, who died in 1910. His stories were renowned for surprise endings, such as the ironic conclusion of "The Gift of the Magi," which was first published in 1905 by a New York newspaper. The story concerns a wife and husband who secretly sacrifice their favorite possessions to purchase Christmas gifts for each other. Della, the wife, sells her long hair, which is more valuable to her than jewels, so she can buy an expensive watch fob for Jim. His single fine possession is his grandfather's gold pocket watch. As the story closes, Jim tells Della that he sold the watch to purchase a gift for her -- jeweled hair combs.
Definition of a Metaphor
Metaphors use one object or concept to explain another. In "The Gift of the Magi," the narrator compares slender Della to a bulldozer. Although she only has $1.87 with which to buy a Christmas gift for her husband, the narrator says she saved it a penny at a time by "bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher." The bulldozer image is a metaphor for the strength of Della's determination. Later, using another literary device called a simile -- a comparison including the word "like" or "as" -- the narrator adds to this image of power by likening the beauty of her hair to a turbulent river "rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters."
Central Metaphor
The central metaphor of O. Henry's story alludes to the wealthy wise men, or magi, who delivered rare gifts to baby Jesus in Matthew 2:1-18 of the Bible's New Testament. No wise men visit Della and Jim. O. Henry ends his story with the metaphor, "They are the magi," in reference to Della and Jim. He precedes this statement by calling them "foolish children" whose sacrifices were both unwise and yet the wisest of all. The narrator thinks Della and Jim are the greatest gift-givers of all time, because their love has caused them to give unselfishly and at great cost. This metaphor underlines the story's theme that love is the best gift of all.
Mixed Metaphor
One confusing metaphor in "The Gift of the Magi" contains conflicting images. After Della sells her hair, she is happy while shopping for Jim's gift. The narrator says, "The next two hours tripped by on rosy wings," then jokingly adds, "never mind the hashed metaphor," because birds use their wings to fly, not skip. Authors normally avoid mixed metaphors. The narrator's joke may have been based on O. Henry's need to meet a deadline -- "The Atlantic Monthly" notes that he reportedly wrote the story in less than two hours.

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