What is meant by "moral reflections" in "The Gift of the Magi"?

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In the second paragraph of O.Henry's famous short story, "The Gift of the Magi," O. Henry is explaining Della's distress at only have $1.87 with which to buy her beloved a Christmas gift. Because she is distraught, she throws herself onto the couch and cries. This description is...

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In the second paragraph of O.Henry's famous short story, "The Gift of the Magi," O. Henry is explaining Della's distress at only have $1.87 with which to buy her beloved a Christmas gift. Because she is distraught, she throws herself onto the couch and cries. This description is followed by "the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating." This sentence is important in relation to the story because it gives insight into the narrator of the short story, who takes the time to point out that Della's tears demonstrate an important aspect of life. The narrator also provides such a statement early in the plot because it summarizes a theme (which is what a "moral reflection" is) that is central to the story as a whole. At the end of "The Gift of the Magi," the reader sees both Della and Jim share smiles and tears as they reflect on the sacrifices made by their partners for the sole purpose of offering happiness to the other.

It is also worth noting that the syntactic structure of this sentence is significantly longer in comparison with the preceding sentence, so the two contrast each other when reading. The author's choice in syntax here reveals a desire to highlight both sentences by having them juxtapose each other.

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A moral is a truth, message, or lesson.  When a person reflects on something, they consider it carefully.  In "The Gift of the Magi," O. Henry writes that Della's crying "...instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating."

A language that is more typical of modern times, the author might have said that Della's "howling" caused to her realize that life is made up of pain, sadness, and happiness, with the most common of the three being sadness.  The author might also have simply said that moments of sadness are more common than moments of pain or happiness.

 

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