A plot analysis of the gift of the magi


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A plot analysis of the gift of the magi

  2. 2. TABLE OF CONTENTSI. Synopsis of the Gift of the Magi …………………………………………….. Page 1II. Plot Type: The Quest ………………………………………………………….. Page 2III. Stages and Elements of Plot ……………………………………………….. Page 4IV. The Use of Plot to Present the Theme ……………………………....... Page 5V. Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………….. Page 6
  3. 3. A Plot Analysis of the Gift of the Magi [Tienny Makrus]I. Synopsis of the Gift of the Magi Jim and Della Young are a young couple living in a small apartment. They have very little money -- Della only has $1.87 on hand at the start of the story. It is almost Christmas. Jim and Della each want to get the other a present. Jim wants to get Della something for her beautiful hair (her most valued possession). She wants to get him something for his watch -- his most valued possession. The problem is they dont have money. Della cuts her hair off and sells it to get money to buy Jim a chain for his watch. He pawns his watch to get her combs for her hair. So now they dont have their treasures and the gifts are worthless, but the narrator says they are wise for giving those gifts.A Plot Analysis of the Gift of the Magi by Tienny Makrus Page 1
  4. 4. II. Plot Type: The QuestThe Call Della wants to buy Jim a suitably amazing Christmas gift, butdoesnt have any money. We learn right away what Dellas "quest" is: tofind the perfect present for Jim. We also know the problem she faces: shedoesnt have the money to buy the perfect present. Della is frustrated bythis and cries. Afterwards, she looks at her hair, and rushes out of the flat.We get the sense she has made a fateful decision.The Journey Della sells her hair, and then it is shopping time. Della remedies herinitial problem with an epic sacrifice, and continues on her quest for theperfect present. It takes two hours to find it.Arrival and Frustration Della finds Jim the watch chain and gets it. Mission accomplished.Only now theres a new frustration: she realizes that Jim may be moreunhappy about her missing hair than pleased by his present. She tries tomake the best of her shortened hair with the help of a curling iron, thoughshe now looks like a schoolboy. She prepares for Jims return.A Plot Analysis of the Gift of the Magi by Tienny Makrus Page 2
  5. 5. The Final Ordeals Jim arrives and puts Della through a scare – hes shocked by herhair, and she doesnt know what to make of his reaction. He recovers andtells her to open his gift. She does, and finds the combs. Della is bothmoved with joy and racked by sadness since her hair is gone. It remainsnow to give Jim his present. Will he like it?The Goal Jim at last receives his gift from Della, only to tell her that he hassold the watch for which it was intended. The action of the story stopsthere, and we might feel a bit ambivalent (that is, we have two differentreactions): whats happened is touching, but was Dellas now-uselesspresent actually a success? Was her quest successful? Luckily, the narratoris there to take away those nasty second thoughts and assure us that yes,it was, since her gift (along with Jims) was the wisest of all.A Plot Analysis of the Gift of the Magi by Tienny Makrus Page 3
  6. 6. III. Stages and Elements of Plot A plot diagram for "The Gift of the Magi" would be: a) Exposition: The background information about Jim and Della, they are a married couple with little money. They scrape to get by. It is Christmas time and they each want to buy the other a gift. We learn that each has a prize possession. Dellas hair and Jims watch. b) Rising Action: After a good cry Della decides she must do something to get money for a gift for Jim. c) The climax: it occurs when Jim and Delia discover that Jim has sold his watch to buy hair combs for Delias now-short hair; the fact that he no longer has a watch to attach the chain to complete the irony. d) Falling Action: She goes and buys Jim a platinum watch-chain. Della waits at home for Jim, nervous about what he will think of her hair. Jim comes home with a present of combs for her hair. He has sold the watch to buy them. e) Resolution: The gifts they bought are now useless. Jim and Della are examples of sacrifice and love. Selflessness, their actions, giving up their prize possessions in order to give to each other makes them unique. They already possess the greatest gift of all, love for each other.A Plot Analysis of the Gift of the Magi by Tienny Makrus Page 4
  7. 7. IV. The Use of Plot to Present the Theme O. Henry success in making a simple chronological plot interesting, another achievement of him in writing The Gift of the Magi is his ability to effectively present the theme through plot. In "The Gift of the Magi" the main complication stems from the impoverishment of the young couple; Della and Jim simply do not have enough money to purchase Christmas gifts for each other. This problem is suggested in the exposition of O. Henrys poignant story: The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid thirty dollars per week. Now when the income was shrunk to twenty dollars, the letter of Dillingham looked blurred, as though they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. Also in the exposition, Della cries after counting her meager one dollar and eighty-seven cents which will not pay for the beautiful watch fob which she desires to give her husband for a Christmas present. The resulting rising action that comes from this original complication gives rise to Dellas inner conflict of cutting her hair which Jim loves and of which she is so proud. Jim, too, suffers from inner conflicts resulting from the complication of penury as he wrestles with the idea of selling his gold watch to buy the beautiful combs for his wifes Christmas present.A Plot Analysis of the Gift of the Magi by Tienny Makrus Page 5
  8. 8. A touching plot, indeed--and relevant today in this material world-- the story, "The Gift of the Magi," has a resolution to this complication that many would do well to ponder. As O. Henry remarks, "They [Della and Jim] are the wisest of all."V. Conclusion The narrators perspective in that last paragraph, according towhich the gifts theyve given each other are the "wisest" gifts of all, the"gifts of the magi." If we agree, then of course theyve succeeded in whatthey wanted to do. Both Jim and Della have shown that theyre willing tosacrifice the most valuable thing they have to give something to the other.That makes their "useless" gifts incredibly valuable after all: the selflesslove each feels for the other is embodied in those gifts. As long as theyhave the gifts, theyll be able to remember it. That kind of thing cant bebought. And it makes the gifts even more special and personal than whatthey replaced. Which leads us to another point before the exchange; Jim and Dellaeach had one prize possession. Each possession was valuable on its ownand belonged to each person individually. The watch was Jims, and thehair was Dellas. Both possessions are sacrificed. In the exchange, eachgains something new, which doesnt have any sentimental value as aA Plot Analysis of the Gift of the Magi by Tienny Makrus Page 6
  9. 9. token of their love for each other. That love isnt something they have asindividuals; its something they share together. So in the gift exchange,the two of them come closer together in a very concrete way. O. Henry assumes his readers have a solid knowledge of the Bibleand will not only recognize but understand the allusions he uses in Gift ofthe Magi. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered: After several attempts to make Jim understand that she cut off her hair, Della desperately cries out to her husband “Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?" Her cry is a direct reference to an incident in the Bible where Jesus explains how deep God’s love is for His children.“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them isforgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are allnumbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”[KJV ~ Luke 12:6-7 6] This allusion does two things, it clearly indicates the depth ofDella’s love for Jim and it also indicates Della’s understanding of God’slove..A Plot Analysis of the Gift of the Magi by Tienny Makrus Page 7
  10. 10. BIBLIOGRAPHYHenry, O. (William Sydney Porter). 1906. The Gift of the Magi. (in Pardede, Parlindungan. 2006. An Introduction to the Study of Fiction. Jakarta: FKIP-UKI)Pardede, Parlindungan. 2006. Appendix 2: Samples of Analysis. Jakarta: FKIP-UKIPassage Luke 12:6-7 (King James Version). http://www.biblegateway.com