The Gift of the Magi is a short story first published in 1905, by the famous American writer O.Henry (real name William Porter). In the over 100 years since it first came out, it has become one of the most popular and influential short stories of all time, being adapted into numerous school plays, movies, radio dramas and TV episodes. Amazingly the story was written in three hours due to O.Henry procrastinating for several days and almost missing his deadline, this is one of the reason’s for me choosing this text, as I am writing this response after procrastinating for several days as well. I originally read this story two years ago back in 2016, at the time I didn’t understand the story, and found O.Henry’s way of writing to “old” to read. However as the years passed, I began to think back on this story, pondering the final lines of the novel Of all who give gifts, these two were the most wise. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the most wise. Everywhere they are the wise ones.
They are the magi.” I believe I have finally grasped what this means, and is one of the reasons why I have chosen it for my fourth response.
The story is about a young husband and wife, who want to buy secret Christmas gifts for each other, however have no money. The wife, Della, has long beautiful hair, so the husband, Jim, wants to buy her a set of bejeweled combs. In order to do so however, he has to sell off his most prized possession, his watch. In the meantime Della wants to buy a watch fob ( Watch chain) for Jim, however to do so she must sell off her most prized possession, her hair, to a nearby hairdresser. The story ends with the pair revealing their presents to each other, and realizing that they can no longer use them. While saddened at first, they are eventually overcome with love as they realize that they have sacrificed their most prized worldly possessions for each other. In the end the narrator contrasts the gifts of love and meaning given by Della and Jim with those given by the magi – the wise biblical men who were the first to give Christmas presents.
The story itself, while short, is very straightforward and to the point, with their being little use of metaphors, similes or really any language features at all. This stripped down style of writing is refreshing to me as a reader, as I can tell at some points O.Henry was rushing to complete his work, this relates to me as this is how I write most of mine, a mad rush to the finish. Unlike other novels, like Markus Zusak’s 2005 novel “The Book Theif”, or short stories/poems, like Wilfred Owen’s 1920 poem “Dulce et Decorum est”, where the writer is jumping at the chance to, in great detail, explain the color, size, and shape of every object and person included in their text, O.Henry, either due to the short time he had to write, or simply because he didn’t want to, explains only the most relevant things in detail. For example O.Henry only ever uses a few words to explain Dalia’s hair, that it is “brown”, long, and looks like a “waterfall”, these are the only visual details given about the main character, a anomaly when compared with other stories, for example in “The Book Thief” we learn that main character Liesal, born in february 1929, is a caucasian, nine year old, with blonde hair that is “a close enough brand to German Blonde” with brown eyes and a “smile that was starving” -meaning she seldom smiled, her parents were communist however she was “Lutheran”, a denomination within the catholic religion. O.Henry doesn’t tell us anything about Dalia besides the color of her hair, we don’t even know her eye color, or her race. In “Dulce Et Decorum” the language techniques of similes, personification, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, irony, and direct speech are used, for example in the stanza “But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;” where as well as the line rhyming with the previous line, there is also a metaphor, hyperbole. In The gift of the Magi no such line exists. This lack of obvious language features helps enhance the main theme of the novel, which is that gifts given are more powerful if they are more meaningful and given with love verses the Magi who simply gave gifts of value. By stripping away much of the detail from the story, O.Hare has instead focused on simply telling his story and getting right to his point, allowing it to be much more direct. In other words, by eliminating the fluff (language features), he has allowed his point to come across much more precise and impactful.
I believe that this story can also relate to the rest of the world as well, everyone at some point in their lives rushes something important, so I believe that this story, especially, proves that even in spite of that, something incredible can still be created. This is why I would recommend this story to my classmates, friends and really anyone who has to write a response in a short amount of time, as it gets right to the point, which can be analysed in many different ways. Just like other great pieces of writing, this condensed, less language feature heavy, story can pack the same amount of thematic punch as other novels just in a slightly smaller can.