Irony of Life

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Love, care and sacrifice are indispensible to most of the relationships of life; especially in marriage, these factors become more important. Each of the couple has to know for whom and for which they live and work. In “The Gift of the Magi”, O.Henry was really successful in describing the love, care and sacrifice that Della and Jim give each other. The story would not become famous without its “surprising ending”, the accident and coincidence. Readers are attracted to the moving love story between Jim and Della, which is transfigured by O.Henry’s unrivalled flowery language, academic and belles-letters style, and his superb ironical tone. At the end of the story, readers will only be able to say “How ironical their life is!” “The irony of life” in “The Gift of the Magi” is presented through a story of love and sacrifice between a young couple, Jim and Della, who are poor materially but not poor spiritually. They always live happily in a poor living condition. Their happiness is described simply by the call “Jim” and the great hug of the wife, Della, for her husband, Jim whenever he came home. Della always feels happy in “the look-out for the mendicancy squad” because she loves Jim, who is living there. And also, she is happy in thought of the nice and precious present for Jim though she has to “save every penny by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher”. However, the fate is ironical; God wants to provoke her. “Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only one dollar and eighty-seven cents to buy Jim a present”. What could she do with this small amount of money? Perhaps the answer is very clear: “There was clearly nothing left to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl”. She howls. She cries painfully. If only they were not so much poor, if only Jim’s salary was more than twenty dollars per week, if only she had more money then, if only… By putting “three times” at the beginning of the sentence “Three times Della counts her money”, by using the conversion, O.Henry can lead readers to Della’s state of mind, a little doubt, a little hope that she could mistake. Then, “One dollar and eighty-seven cents” between two sentence points confirms that there is no mistake here. Exactly, she has only $1.87. The reality of life is always ruthless! However, “many a happy hour she spent planning for something nice for him” can’t become waste; “her eyes were shining brilliantly” as she looks into a mirror, an idea comes to her, she makes her own decision – selling her beautiful long blonde hair, her only own treasure to buy a platinum fob chain which is, for her, “worthy of The Watch”. It’s Jim’s own treasure that he inherited from his grandfather and his father. If the story stopped here, everything could be all right because Jim loves Della not for her hair. It is shown in the words Jim said: “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”. Jim loves Della herself. And it is for his great love he gives her that he can sacrifice everything he has for her, even his only own treasure – The Watch. At this time, the irony occurs. He was stunned by the truth he heard and saw; he was so shocked that he maybe could not know that he said with an air almost of idiocy: “You’ve cut off your hair?”, “ You said your hair is gone?”. These seemingly silly questions show not only that he had not recovered from his shock but also that he still felt sorry for his sacrifice for her sake. There is a bitter and sadness in his says. How heart-rending he is when his love gift for his darling becomes useless! He becomes more heart-rending when he sees Della tearing at the string and paper of the gift, and her ecstatic scream of joy giving place to tears and wails. In addition, it was the time when Della told him to give her his watch to see how the chain would look on it, Jim, instead of obeying, “tumbled down on the couch and put his hands...
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