ENG 125: Introduction to Literature
Theme and Narrative Elements: The Gift of the Magi
The Gift of the Magi is a short story that was written by William Sydney Porter, better known by his pseudonym O. Henry in 1906. O. Henry was a prolific author penning many short stories beginning in 1899 until his death in 1910. O. Henry is famous for his trademark surprise endings which he called “snapper” endings (Clugston, 2010) and for his rich use of symbolism and irony. The story The Gift of the Magi follows the story of a young couple who are madly in love but suffering from the inability to provide the “perfect” gift for each other due to a lack of finances. O. Henry’s usage of plot, setting, symbolism and irony will be discussed in the following theme and narrative elements in this short story essay.
The Gift of the Magi has three different themes. The themes portrayed in this work are poverty, love, and generosity. The main characters in The Gift of the Magi are named Jim and Della; they are a young happy couple who have found themselves living in poverty. At the beginning of the story we are introduced to Della, who is meticulously counting all the money that she has been able to save for her husband Jims Christmas gift. Della is crying with despair over the fact that the amount of money that she has saved will not by her anything that she deems worthy of giving her beloved Jim. It appears that Jim and Della once had a greater salary, one that they were proud of, and one that deemed Jim worthy of having the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young." It also appears that since the drop in Jim’s income their hopes of giving a present worthy of their beloved has been dashed too. O. Henry shows us the Young’s poverty by describing their “shabby little couch”, a neglected letter box and “and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring” (Henry, 2007). By O. Henry’s...