It is when we sacrifice our most prized possessions that we measure how long our limitations can reach in the name of love and of sacrifice.

The gift of the Magi, by O.Henry, is a story of poverty and depression and how a great love overcomes it. The conflict and the setting create the intense suspense in the story. And binary oppositions are present in it which really make it that full and chock-a-block.

Della does not have enough money to buy her husband a Christmas present and Christmas is a day away. She is thinking of every possibility of how to get Jim a present. At last, she decides to give up her most prized possession, her hair for twenty dollars in exchange.

The 9th paragraph points out that they have no valuables, only a watch and Della’s hair, which shows that they are having money issues and can’t afford anything expensive, nice or posh. Both Della and Jim sacrifice each of their only valuable possession to give one another a Christmas present. Jim sacrificed his watch for a turquoise shell comb set for Della’s beautiful hair. Ironically Della had cut her hair to make money for Jim’s present, a gold chain to hold his watch. Although it does backfire on both of them it shows us how much they loved each other.

Now, in the light of Structuralism, the story presents binary oppositions that became imperatively fundamental in the development and the entirety of the story.

(1) Sniffles and Smiles – Della, in the story, sobbed because of the dilemma that they were having caused by poverty and a catch-22 hope of saving their selves from poverty. But in the end, a smile was dimpled on their faces of knowing what each other would do just to make each other feel special and happy.

(2) Being on the breadline and being born with a silver spoon in the mouth – The story was not just about the value of money or of the level of poverty reflected in the society but rather the big difference of someone who’s rich and someone who’s not or of what can a poor man buy and how many can a rich man have.

(3) Of value and of insignificances – This binary opposition created meaning to the story’s idea about how to value someone you love despite the odds, chances and likelihood.

(4) To sacrifice and to withhold – The part where each sacrificed their most valuable possessions never really did foreshadow the ending. Contrarily, it had a large connection to the ending where a long hair like that of a brown cascade was cut and a watch had to be sold. And that the present, which was the precious comb, was for the cut hair and the gold chain was for the already-sold watch.

(5) Love and Hatred – Della and Jim’s love for one another can never be paralleled by any bucks of gold or millions of diamond lozenges.  And this love they had in them contributed much to the fullness, the predominating idea of the story, which was definitely a zoom out of epic proportions.

The story told me that it didn’t really matter how Jim and Della’s gifts turned out to be useless. But they were indeed the wisest givers of all – in fact, they were the magi, leaving the feeling of satisfaction and love. The binary opposites conferred meaning, period.

And back to the story where Jim was presented with his gift, Jim calmly reveals, with a smile, that he sold his watch to buy Della her combs. So her present was useless too. But well, that does it for the Christmas presents. Not much left to do, but eat those thin pork chops ready on the table.

Found this hidden on my hard drive.

An Analysis of the Short Story “Gift of the Magi” in the Light of Structuralism

Fiction Class 2011