The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

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How does point of view (including the narrator and his language) help to explain the irony and the related theme in "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," the theme of the story is that of selfless giving from the heart, like that of the magi or wise men in the Christmas story. The irony, of course, is that Della sells her hair to buy Jim a watch fob ("fob chain") for his pocket watch, but Jim sells his watch to buy Della beautiful combs for her long, luxurious hair. In this case, each has sacrificed what was most dear to him or her for the other—which the other then cannot use.

The story is told in third person objective:

Narrator is unnamed/unidentified (a detached observer). Does not assume character's perspective and is not a character in the story. The narrator reports on events and lets the reader supply the meaning.

However, it is also noted that this storyteller is somewhat unusual—he is...

...a narrator with personality and presence.

The narrator (while not a character is the story), adopts a personality that connects to the reader:

...the story is told in another narrative voice that directly addresses the reader as ''you." It is almost as if the narrator is an additional character that is heard, but never seen, engaging the reader...

The narrator's style is informal: described by one source as "folksy"— to me he talks like a fairy tale. However, he also adds side comments throughout the story. This was done by Charles Dickens as well, and is called "authorial intrusion," which gives the story an added dimension. The narrator is like a third character, but only in the telling; and he concentrates more on Della's feelings.

Della's character is presented very much like a princess in need of a hero, as she sits down and cries...

Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and...

(The entire section contains 618 words.)

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isbahaminsiddiq | Student

The main irony of the story is that both have given away their precious possesion to please each other but they both loose their treasures to know that they are the magi.

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