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What is the structure used in "The Gift of the Magi"?

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mightyjoe | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 27, 2008 at 9:55 AM via web

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What is the structure used in "The Gift of the Magi"?

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 27, 2008 at 9:22 PM (Answer #1)

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O Henry, the author of The Gift of the Magi became famous for the structure that he used in his writing. 

"One of the most widely recognized elements of his fiction is the surprise ending; in fact, many critics refer to the sudden, unexpected turn of events at the very end of a story as "the O. Henry twist."

The story is brief, concise and to the point.  In the very first lines, the reader learns about Delia's problem and the type of life she lives, and what few options she has available.    

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parkerlee | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted July 28, 2008 at 7:25 AM (Answer #2)

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Although O. Henry uses the third person narrative form, he invites the reader to observe the opening scene and to contemplate it, much as a spectator does a play. The drabby setting of the homely apartment contrasts vividly with the evident wealth of love in the home. Della is first introduced, then Jim. Then the reader is invited to look away, as if being an intruder on the couple's intimacy. The author imparts other confidences, much as if the reader were a close friend: how endeared Della and Jim are to each other, how they have seen better times, how they maintain self-respect and dignity in spite of their poverty and loss.

Then the story line brusquely resumes as a sequence of scenes, now from Della's point of view (though rendered in third person): her idea to cut her hair before the mirror; her 'flight' to the hairdresser's before she changes her mind; her quest in town for the perfect gift; her preparation of the Christmas meal and anticipation of Jim's return; the couple's final exchange of gifts and ultimate surprise.

By narrowing the point of view as the story progresses to only Della's understanding and experience, the couple's surprise in the end is also the reader's surprise - though their gifts are useless, they have each given the best of themselves, they have given all.

O. Henry then pulls back to his initial vantage point -  he concludes in his prosaic, even paternalizing tone: 'Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.'

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zenispatel | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 22, 2008 at 1:55 PM (Answer #3)

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i dont no

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