What are the similarities and differences between Madame Mathilde Loisel of "The Necklace" and Della Young of "The Gift of the Magi"?
"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
"The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant
While Mathilde Loisel and Della Young are both young, attractive women married to affectionate husbands, they are polar opposites in personalities. For, Della Young of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" is an unselfish, loving wife who cherishes her husband whereas Madame Loisel of Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" never considers anyone's feelings and desires other than her own. Here are a couple areas in which these two characters differ.
Both young women bemoan their current economic status, but Della's regret is only that she does not have enough money with which to buy a Christmas present for her Jim:
Only one dollar and eighty-seven cents to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim.
She grieved incessantly, feeling that she had been born for all the little niceties and luxuries of living.
After Della sells her hair and has twenty dollars with which to buy Jim's present, she is elated and satisfied because now she is able to purchase a Christmas gift for Jim. However, when Mme. Loisel is told by her husband that they are invited to an evening reception, she shows no gratitude; instead, she complains that she has nothing to wear. Then, when Monsieur Loisel unselfishly offers her the money he has saved for a rifle, she expresses no appreciation; rather, she later complains that she has no jewel or gem to wear with the dress.
It is apparent in "The Necklace" that Madame Loisel places material possessions above friendship and the love and faithfulness of her husband. Never in the story is there any indication that she shows gratitude for all the sacrifices of M. Loisel as they repaid the debt on the replacement necklace. When Mme. Loisel encounters Mme Forestier, who has lent her the necklace, on the Champs-Elysees, she selfishly accuses her old friend of being responsible for her misfortunes,
"Yes, I've had a hard time since last seeing you. And plenty of misfortunes--and all on account of you!"
However, when Jim notices that Della has sacrificed her luxurious hair for his gift, Della does not bemoan her condition or blame him. Instead, she begs him not to be angry and seeks to placate him by saying, "It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you?" And, when they both discover that they have sold their prized possessions in order to purchase something for these same prized possessions, Jim and Della do not complain.
It is because of her selfishness that Mathilde Loisel becomes an old and unhappy woman while Della is as rich in love as she was from the beginning of "The Gift of the Magi." She and Jim are considered wise because they understand what is most valuable in life. Mathilde Loisel is left with a wasted life because she placed her own pride and desires before all else.