What does the following extract from "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry want to communicate to its readers?
Explain the meaning of the extract, particularly the part in italics.
In the vestibule below was a letter box in which no letter would go,and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring . Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young".
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This section comes from the beginning of this excellent story and helps to establish the situation of Jim and Della, and in particular the poverty in which they live. Note what we ahve already been told about them. The fact that they are finding it hard to make ends meet is shown by the way in which Della has only been able to save "once dollar and eighty-seven cents" after months of scrimping and saving. The flat in which they live we are told "had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad," which obviously refers to the poor appearance of their belongings and their lack of possessions.
Bearing in mind this context, therefore, the quote you have highlighted serves to further reinforce their poverty. They receive no post and they cannot afford to fix the electric button that is for their apartment. However, this was not always the case, as we are told that Jim, Della's husband, had enjoyed prosperity when he had a job which gave him $30 per week. However, that was a time in the past, as the next sentence tells us: Jim only receives $20 a week now, and this fall in circumstances is felt most keenly by both of them.
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