“The Gift of Magi” is a short story that captures sacrifice and genuine love for one another. The setting of the story is done during Christmas Eve in a poor neighborhood where Della and Jim live. The city where the events take place in New York since it is indicated how Della adored combs in Broadway window. It is probable that the year when the events took place was between 1905 while the story was written in 1912. The flat where the characters lived has buttons that are electric in its entry. Electricity initially became mainly available in New York during the 1980s, which indicates that the entire story happens after 1900. Another concern is that Jim had just received a significant cut in his payment. The economy of the US was active during the late 1890s until sometime in 1906. Later, the economy underwent a considerable downturn thus leading to a financial catastrophe in 1907.
The main themes used in the story are wisdom, love, and sacrifice. Della and Jim demonstrate their passion by offering their most cherished possession to purchase something special for each other during Christmas. As the story ends, the narrator describes the two characters as “the wisest” and “unwise.” They were the wisest since they thought of each other and were not selfish when purchasing the gifts; the two were regarded as unwise since it is not relevant to offer rewards that are expensive when people are genuinely in love. The minor themes used in the story include beauty, value, and giving.
The story is given from the third person point of view that is limited where the speaker informs us about Della’s thoughts. The narrator further shares some individual perceptions, “which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles…” The author uses a sympathetic and understanding tone towards Jim and Bella. The narrator’s tone towards the reader is philosophical and playful. “Eight dollars a week or a million a year…what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer.”
Characterization in the story is an essential aspect that the author uses to develop the plot. The protagonists in the story include Della who is displayed as an individual who is devoted, determined, excitable, selfless, impulsive and warm. Jim on the other side is selfless, dedicated, serious and proud. The character of antagonism is illustrated because the story is unusual in that the antagonist is not among the main characters. Instead, it is regarded as a form of poverty. Madame Sofroine is one of the minor characters in the story and is depicted as professional and cold. The story further brings out the nature of internal conflict where Della and Jim’s decisions regarding whether to sell their treasured items were featured. The fight against poverty that Della and Jim underwent exemplifies the issue of external conflict in the story.
The story further utilizes several literary techniques in passing its message to the reader. Alliteration is one of the methods where the writer uses words like “sudden serious sweetness,” “sniffles, sobs, and smiles.” Allusion is another literary device in the story particularly in how the writer refers to Queen and King of Sheba as well as King Solomon. The use of imagery is also exemplified in the story. Imagery is seen where the author writes, “Della looked out at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard.” Irony is also used in the story where the different characters in the story exchange precious items which could not be utilized.
Henry, Oh. The Gift of the Magi. Pioneer Drama Service, Inc., 1977.