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What is the main conflict in "The Gift of the Magi"?

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iluvjesse1 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 9, 2008 at 2:23 AM via web

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What is the main conflict in "The Gift of the Magi"?

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

Posted November 9, 2008 at 2:38 AM (Answer #1)

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The main conflict in The Gift of the Magi is poverty.  Because of their poverty, Jim and Delia have to make great personal sacrifices to buy the other a Christmas present.

"In "The Gift of the Magi," O. Henry uses a folksy narrator to tell the story of Jim and Delia Young, a poor young couple who buy each other special Christmas gifts, which ironically cancel each other out because Delia sells her hair to buy Jim a chain for his watch, which he in turn has sold to buy her a fine set of combs for her hair. Despite the fact that these gifts are now useless, Jim and Delia have given each other the greatest gift of all, which the narrator compares to the gifts given to the Christ child by the wise men, or magi: selfless love."

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted December 13, 2009 at 5:57 AM (Answer #1)

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Alexander Dumas' classic book "The Three Musketeers" is developed around the classic theme of good versus evil.  It is a tale of sword fighting and adventure.  In the story it is the intent of the antagonist, The Cardinal, to ruin Queen Anne's reputation.  Queen Anne has given a gift to her lover,  The Duke of Buckingham,  diamond studs, if this is revealed it would cause her defacement with the king. The protagonist's are Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and a new edition in the group, youthful D'Artagnan.  The conflict that they face is retrieveing the Queen's jewels and stopping the Cardinal from destroying the Queen and her influence.

D'Artagnan faces conflict as he fights the different members of the Musketeers to prove his worthiness at being a member of the Musketeers.

Milady, a romantic conquest of D'Artagnan and her attempts to end his life is the other conflict in the story.  Milady also goes after Constance,D'Artagnan's beloved.  Constance dies, but in the end good triumphs over evil and Milady is killed. 

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted October 28, 2007 at 2:11 AM (Answer #1)

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One major conflict is the couple's struggle to survive in the midst of poverty. O'Henry describes their apartment in great detail in order to show just how poor the couple is in material wealth.

Both Jim and Delia have an internal struggle as well. Delia's long, beautiful hair is her most prized possession, and she must convince herself that she's doing the right thing in having it cut. For Jim, his watch is a family heirloom that has been handed down to him. It isn't something he can go out and buy later if he should get the money. It's a difficult conflict for him as well to sell the watch.

 

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted October 28, 2007 at 8:38 AM (Answer #2)

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Another conflict in the story, and probably the most obvious is that the couple would like to be able to give the other something spectacular for Christmas that neither can afford because they are poor. The conflict is how each can express their love for the other through the material thing they present on Christmas Day and they find that resolved in the act of sacrifice that each was willing to commit through the useless gifts they presented made useless by each sacrifice made by Jim and Della. 

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brendawm | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted October 28, 2007 at 8:44 AM (Answer #3)

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There are basically two types of conflicts in the story:

Internal conflict exists, as Della and Jim struggle with the decision to sacrifice the things that mean the most to them personally in order to provide  the one they love with a proper gift that appropriately symbolizes their love.

External conflict exists in the form of Man versus Society as Jim and Della struggle against a financially centered society in which they lack the ability or means to provide their loved one witha proper gift that appropriately symbolizes their love.

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