Style Given By O’Henry in “The Gift of The Magi”

The Gift of The Magi  Summary

Inroduction: William Sydney porter was an American short story writer. He acquired the pseudonym from a warder called Orrin Henry. Henry published ten collections and over 600 short stories during his life time. He worked as a reporter and a columnist in a local news paper agency.

‘The gift of the Magi’ is a short story of Della and James; husband and wife. They were living in a rental flat. They were so much sincere, faithful and loyal to each other, they sold their possessions to celebrate their Christmas. They are included in the list of the Magi. Magi were the wisest people who presented gifts to the Christ.

 Style used in The Gift of the Magi:


 Irony is a kind of device which is used in literature to increase the value of the work. Irony consists of saying one thing while you mean another. There are several kinds of Irony in the literature. But this story deals with the situational Irony. When their gifts become useless for themselves, it creates the situational Irony. Because gifts are presented by the wisest these gifts are useful and beneficial for the receivers.

 “I could not have lived through Christmas without giving you a present”

“Being wise, their gifts no doubt wise ones… two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other”


 In writing or speaking ‘HUMOUR’ can mean ‘MOOD’ or ‘CHARACTER’ but the word also denotes ‘that which causes laughter.’ In the very beginning of this story, the way how THE DILLINGHAMS were spending their lives was pathetic and humorous as well.

“There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it…”


 A symbol is something which represents something else (often an idea or quality) analogy or association. The Dillingham were so poor that they were living in miserable condition. Their misery is symbolized through this sentence.

 “… and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard”

 Color imagery also exists in this short story.

 “She turned white for just a moment.”


 O’ Henry uses a colorful comparison in a mastery way to attract his readers. He describes the beauty of his heroine in a splendid comparison. Comparison is a device which shoes the value of something than other on the basis of quality.

 “Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds”

 “Being wise, their gifts no doubt wise ones… two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other”


 A figure of speech usually used in prose and verse. Similes always contain the words ‘like’ or ‘as’. Here the writer uses simile of cascade for the beauty of Della’s hair.

“Della’s beautiful hair fell like a cascade of brown water.”

After cutting her hair off Della was looking like a schoolboy.

“That made her looks like a truant schoolboy.”


Allusion is a historical or Biblical reference. The main motive of the usage of allusion is to relate the present events and characters with the previous incidents and persons and to enhance the attraction knowledge of the readers.

“Had the question of Sheba lived in the flat across the Airshaft?”

“Had King Solomon been the Janitor?”

 “The Magi – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger.”


 It means the repetition of phrases and clauses again and again. It shows character’s physical or psychological condition in the story.

“One dollar and eighty seven cents.”

“Like a Cascade of brown waters.”


 O’ Henry often uses third person to evaluate or narrate this story. Omniscient means a story-teller with total, God like knowledge of the characters and their actions.

“She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.”

“He looked thin and very serious.”

Themes in The Gift of The Magi:

 Theme means the central idea of some work which may explicit or not. A single work may have several themes.


 Love means the attraction between two persons or entities there are two kinds of Love in this universe, mortal and immortal Love or worldly or spiritual Love. Love is an abstract noun but it can be materialized through the presentation of gifts. The presentation of gifts in friendship increases he passion of Love. This is the story of two Lovers, husband & wife. They have to celebrate their Christmas ceremony through giving and receiving the gifts to each other. Della sells her beautiful hair to present a gift to Jim.

As Jim also buy a wondrous gift for Della.

“Maybe the hairs of my head were number of.”

“But nobody could ever count My Love for You.”

“I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs.


Sacrifice is one of the major themes of “the gift of the Magi”

Both gift and sacrifice are the expression of Love. Gifts are presented in the shape of objects and things as well as the devotion of the physical efforts. However, the devotion of physical efforts through the depth of heart shows the purity of Love. Della and James sacrifice for each other.

Della says,

“I had my hair cut off and sold because I could not have lived through Christmas with out giving you a presents.”

            “I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs.”


Poverty is also discussed in this short story. ‘The Dillingham’ were so poor and leading a miserable life. Della was very contended and faithful wife. She used to save money on daily basis. The writer also tells us their expenses were high than their income.

 “Expenses had been greater than she had calculated”

 That’s why they sold their possessions to presents the gifts to each other.


After the whole discussion, we can say that ‘The Gift of the Magi’ is O’ Henry’s masterpiece. ‘The Gift of the Magi’ held so much popularity that many writers wrote OPERAS and many singers sang that OPERAS. These short stories are derived from the life of the ordinary people in New York City. O’ Henry uses twist plot in his stories, which turn on ironic or coincidental circumstance. Although some critics are not so enthusiastic about his work yet the public loves it. The Gift of The Magi Study Guide By M Zaman Ali.

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