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Literary Analysis of ‘The Gift of the Magi’


Different literary themes such as plotting, setting, tone, characterization and point of view help in sketching the narrative theme of story (Abrams& Harpham, 2011). Since narrative theme is composed of descriptive details of characters and situation, while highlighting the significance of situations and events, therefore, literary elements are related in terms of creating effective narrative theme (Zile, 2001). Considering the significance of literary elements for the narrative theme, this paper analyzes the story“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, which published in 1906 and notifies the story about a young couple forgoing and sacrificing their most valued possessions merely for purchasing gifts for each other. 

Major Theme of the Story

The major theme of the story signifies sacrifice of young couple, who were surrounded by the poverty, as essential phenomena existing in the society. The story mainly draws the story of young couples, who were ready to sacrifice all their precious and valued possession in order to buy the Christmas present for each other. Thus, the main characters of the story were Della and Jim; Della loved her long beautiful hair while Jim loved his watch. However, they both sell them out to buy gifts for each other. The imagery outline of the surroundings and the couple's clothing also highlight the poverty of the characters in the story and further outlines the lives of lower class Americans. The elements of surprises and tricks endings hold the interest of readers until the end of the story when it was revealed that Della bought a chain for treasured watch for Jim by selling her hair, while Jim sells his watch to buy her a pair of tortoise-shell combs for her long hair. Hire best essay writing service

Literary Elements in the Story

Plot of the Story

The opening sentence of the story‘One dollar and eighty-seven cents that was all’ helps in elaborating the plot of the story. This sentence demonstrates the phenomena covered in the story that was related to the financial crisis, often faced by people from lower class. The major plot of the story further leads to tell story of a young married couple named Della and Jim who sacrifice their belongings. Plot outlines the presence of the characters living in lower class American society, where they have not enough money to purchase Christmas gifts for each other. In order to put the plot on right interesting way, writer has used the narrator point of view, where technically plot is illustrated from the third person point of view. The significant element of plot is that narrator only follows Della and does not seem to show what Jim is doing. This essence of the narrator beautifies the plot by maintain suspense element.

Genre and Tone of the Story

Consisting of key features of the story, the genre of the story appears to be likely simple moral and comprises of the situations, which draw the readers’ attention on the sacrificial elements demonstrated by characters of the story. In addition, the tone of the story does not show that narrator as the character of the story nor he has been shown as neutral observer. On the other hand, he seems to give impression of a characteristically person, who is just telling the story. Thus, this element of the story serves in creating better understanding of the narrator point of view. 

Literary Elements Affecting the Narrative Theme

The literary elements identified in this paper are plot, genre and tone of the story. The close analysis of these literary elements indicates that the plot outlining was used to serve the narrative theme of the story. Similarly, genre and tone of the story serves the narrative theme of the story by neither portraying the narrator as neutral observe nor character of the story.    

Third Person Narrating the Story

The considerable element identified in the plot of the story is the narrator’s point of view and his understanding related to the tragedy of the story. The plot has beautifully been outlined by the thoughts and views of the narrator; however, there is significantly important role of the narrator in creating effective narrative theme in the story. The narrator in the plot has been presented neither as neutral observer nor as character of the story. On the other hand, this narrator merely appears to follow Della and there is no description by this narrator about what Jim is doing. This essence of the narrative theme has served with the surprising elements through the narration of the story. 

Tone of the Story

The tone of the story reflects distinguished role of narrator in terms of narrating the story. The narrator of the story is neither character of the story nor he is neutral observer. This characteristic of narrator has served in creating independent role of narrator. The tone of the story goes plainly with describing the actions of one character of the story. Thus, the tone of the story collaborates with the narrative them while creating the element of the suspense for the readers, which is revealed at the end of the story.  


This paper can be concluded by stating that literary elements in the story such as plot and tone of the story are significantly related to enhance the narrative theme of the story. It is found that plot of the story that states the story of young married couple from lower class has been addressed appropriately by the third person point of view. Similarly, tone of the story that includes partial role of narrator increased the independent of the narrator in terms of reflecting the general phenomena of the story. Thus, it is concluded that these two literary elements have served the narrative theme of the story by describing the characters and situations.

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