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Commentary on O. Henry’s “Gift of a Magi”

In “The Gift of a Magi,” the theme is the most important literary element and is the “driving force” in the story. The theme can be that love and sacrifice are treasured above all else. The theme is shown when Della and Jim sell their most prized possession, which is the sacrifice and buys each other a gift of love. This led to Della and Jim being portrayed as foolish and childish, but they treasured that ironic moment filled with love and sacrifice and set aside their materials gifts. Also, the author’s focus of writing the story was to get the theme across to the reader. This is because the author did believe the theme was true. This is captured when O. Henry says, “Let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two were the wisest.” The author meant Della and Jim when he said this. The theme, therefore, can be described as the foundation of the story, so if there were no theme, the whole story would fall apart.

So since the theme is established as a foundation, it affects most of the literary elements, but it is also affected by two others. Finally, the theme is the main literary element since it plays a big role in the story since the author actually believes it and wants to get it across to the reader. First, the theme affects irony. The irony happens when the reader discovers that Della bought a fob chain for Jim’s watch and sells her hair to get it, but it is immediately found out later in the story that Jim sold his gold watch to get combs for Della’s hair. The irony is affected by the theme because if the author did not think love and sacrifice were treasured above all, he would not create the irony. At the same time, the irony helps the author get his point across that love and sacrifice are treasured above all else since this belief is described and shown by the irony. Second, irony affects the mood since the irony changes the reader’s feelings.

Throughout the story, the reader feels anxious because they do not know what Della will do to buy Jim a present and is on the edge of their seat when Della cuts her hair. The mood changes after the ironic sacrifice, and then the reader feels uplifted because of the character’s love and willingness to sacrifice. Next, the irony is affected by the point of view and conflict. The irony is affected by conflict because since the author knows only Della’s thoughts or third person limited, the irony is not given away by the thoughts of Jim. This is because if the reader knew that Jim had sold his watch to get Della combs for her hair, the reader would expect the ironic sacrifice, and there would be no surprise. Conflict affects irony because if Della were not in a battle with herself, which is Person versus self, Della would not sell her hair, which is one step of the irony. If Della and Jim were not poor, person versus society, they would not have to sacrifice so much. This also ties in with the setting because if the story did not happen during Christmas time, the characters would not be in such a rush to get gifts for each other. Finally, the tone affects the irony because the author creates irony to complete his agenda of getting the theme across.

The mood in the story is also affected by the theme and can be described as one of warmth and happiness. This is because of Della and Jim’s willingness to give, which describes the main point of the theme. The mood can also be warmth and happiness because the theme put across can make the reader feel warmth and happiness. Love over everything else can make the reader feel different feelings all at once, like joy since love is treasured but melancholy since sacrifice is also involved. This feeling is held on throughout the story until the very end, where the reader is surprised and either feels Della and Jim are like Magi, wise, which is the author’s perspective or like foolish children. The perspective of the reader depends on the emotions and beliefs of the reader. The tone can also affect the mood. The tone in “The Gift of a Magi” can be described as sentimentalism meaning warm or tender feelings.

This is because the author thinks that Jim and Della are the wisest because of the gift of love and sacrifice, which the author thinks is far better than any other material gift. This attitude of the author describes the theme, which is love and sacrifice is treasured above all. The tone is affected by theme because the main point on the author’s agenda could be to get the theme across to the reader, which is the tone since it is the author’s feelings or attitude to what he writes. Tone also affects mood because the author shapes the story to make the reader feel the warmth. This is because the author wants the reader to understand and take up the perspective that love and sacrifice are treasured. This point is stressed repeatedly throughout the story, whether through the irony or the plot where Della cuts her hair to buy a present or where Jim sells his watch to get combs for Della’s hair.

Tone also affects irony because the author creates irony to get his point across, as stated before. So, without the author’s current view and the main focus of the story, being the theme, the author would have no point in creating the irony. This again proves the importance of the theme. Tone also affects character because to get the point across, the author makes the characters poor but loving and compassionate toward each other. The characters in “The Gift of a Magi” are Della and Jim. Della is a beautiful, caring woman who has long hair and wants the best for her husband. Jim is a worried man who wants the best for his wife Della and has a gold watch. Characters affect the theme because if they did not care for each other so much, the author would not convey the theme, and the author’s point of writing the story, or the tone, would be gone. Since the characters are compassionate, caring and loving, they can show their love and sacrifice to the reader and, at the same time, effectively getting the theme across to the reader.

The characters affect the mood because they are poor and have many good qualities; the reader feels compassion and warms. Next, if they were not poor, they would not have to pay for the gifts by selling their most prized possession, which plays an important in the definition of love and sacrifice. There would also be no irony. The character also affects mood because their love for each other would not touch the reader if they had different personalities. Characters, particularly Della, affect conflict because their personalities that show care and love play a key role. The conflict can be described as a person versus self or Della versus Della. Della is unsure what to get her husband and wants the best for her husband but has to sell her most prized possession for money. This is the conflict, and if Della were not so loving and caring, she would not hesitate not to buy her husband a present. Setting and character create conflict because since the characters are poor and it is around Christmas time, the characters rush to buy presents.

This is person versus society because they are poor and cannot afford presents, but it is Christmas, so they are determined to buy presents for each other. They are so determined that they even sacrificed their most prized possession that the author compared to famous people, Solomon and Sheba. The setting also affects characters because if they did not live in a flat in a poor neighbourhood in the early twentieth century, they would not be poor, which plays a key role in the personalities of Della and Jim. The author would not be able to shape the story to make the theme what it is, and therefore, the tone would not be affected by the theme. Without the setting, all the other literary elements would collapse like a domino effect. Therefore, even though the theme is the “driving force” of the story, the setting plays a major role in the story. Finally, if the setting were not during Christmas time, Della and Jim would not be in such a rush to buy each other presents instead of saving and then later buying presents if it was before or after Christmas. Therefore, the theme is the main literary element in “The Gift of a Magi” and affects or is affected by many literary elements.

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Commentary on O. Henry's "Gift of a Magi". (2021, Aug 18). Retrieved September 6, 2021, from