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The Gift of the Magi

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Two aspects of one theme that run together in this story are sacrifice and love. Jim and Della already possess the greatest gifts they can ever possess: they have each other's love, a love that is willing to sacrifice for that love.

They are compared to the Magi, who knelt at the manger where the infant Jesus lay and brought gifts to honor him. But they knew, the Magi, that their gifts were small insignificant tokens compared to what this infant child would give to them.

They honored him, just as Della and Jim honor each other by sacrificing their prize possessions to buy the other a worthy gift for Christmas. It is the sacrifice involved in this process that is at the heart of the theme--unselfish love, which is rare and should be cherished.

In O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," the theme of the story is that of selfless giving from the heart, like that of the magi or wise men in the Christmas story. The irony, of course, is that Della sells her hair to buy Jim a watch fob ("fob chain") for his pocket watch, but Jim sells his watch to buy Della beautiful combs for her long, luxurious hair. In this case, each has sacrificed what was most dear to him or her for the other--which the other then cannot use.

The story is told in 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.

However, it is also noted that this storyteller is somewhat unusual--he is...

...a narrator with personality and presence.

The narrator (while not a character is the story), adopts a personality that connects to the reader:

...the story is told in another narrative voice that directly addresses the reader as ''you." It is almost as if the narrator is an additional character that is heard, but never seen, engaging the reader...

The narrator's style is informal: described by one source as "folksy"-- to me he talks like a fairy tale. However, he also adds side comments throughout the story. This was done by Charles Dickens as well, and is called "authorial intrusion," which gives the story an added dimension. The narrator is like a third character, but only in the telling; and he concentrates more on Della's feelings.

Della's character is presented very much like a princess in need of a hero, as she sits down and cries...

Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

When Della goes to sell her hair, the narrator makes one think of a Disney princess with his description:

With a whirl of skirts and with a brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

The imagery used supports this feeling:

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings.

With the mood that the language creates, the reader is probably not surprised by the story's outcome: for before the reader's eyes, a Christmas miracle takes place. Each of the young people



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