“The Gift of the Magi”by: O. Henry English I Literature C. Edge ECHS
“The Gift of the Magi”, p. 202Vocabulary • Instigate – v.: gives rise to. Instigate is generally used to mean “provokes or urges on to some action.” • Synonyms: encourage, incite, initiate, provoke, spur, stir up, urge • Antonyms: denounce, deter, discourage, prevent, prohibit
“The Gift of the Magi”, p. 202Vocabulary • Scrutiny – n.: close inspection • Synonyms: analysis, eagle eye, inspection, scan, study • Antonyms: cursory look, glance
“The Gift of the Magi”, p. 202Vocabulary • Depreciate – v.: belittle; lower the value of • Synonyms: cheapen, decrease, deflate, detract, discredit, disgrace, diminish, downgrade, reduce, undervalue, write off • Antonyms: appreciate, cherish, esteem, prize, value
“The Gift of the Magi”, p. 202Vocabulary • Covet – v.: to long for something; here it is used as an adjective to describe something that is longed-for. • Synonyms: crave, hanker for*, itch for*, long for, lust after, thirst for, want • Antonyms: ignore, not want, reject, spurn
Plot Structure • The way that a story is arranged and presented. • Plot Diagram: • Stage 1 – Exposition • Stage 2 – Rising Action • Stage 3 – Climax • Stage 4 – Falling Action • Stage 5 -- Resolution
Setting • The time and location of a story’s action. • What is the setting of the story?
IRONY • A contrast or discrepancy between expectation and reality • There are three types of irony: • Verbal Irony • Situational Irony • Dramatic Irony
Verbal Irony • When a writer or speaker says one thing but really means something completely different. • EXAMPLE: • Calling Hugh Heffner a model of virtuous behavior.
Situational Irony • Occurs when there is a contrast between what would seem appropriate and what really happens or when there is a contradiction between what we expect to happen and what really does take place. • EXAMPLE: • The road runner runs through a brick wall on which Wile E. Coyote has painted a picture of a road that continues on into the distance.
Dramatic Irony • Occurs when the audience or the reader knows something important that a character in a play or story does not know. • EXAMPLE: • In the movie, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, the audience knows that Kate Hudson’s character is playing Matthew McConaughey’s character in order to write a story for her magazine, but he actually thinks that she is falling in love with him.
Simile and Metaphor • Simile – • Example: • Metaphor – • Example:
Allusion • A reference to another work of literature; or a reference to a person or event in history. • Example:
Theme • The central idea about life revealed in the story. • What is the theme of the story?
“The Gift of the Magi” • This O. Henry classic, famous for its characteristic “snapper,” or surprise ending, is a tale of selfless love between a husband and a wife. At Christmas, Della sells her long, beautiful hair to buy her husband, Jim, a platinum fob chain for his prized watch. Meanwhile, he has sold his watch to buy an expensive set of combs for her hair.
Critical Thinking, p. 204 • “Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.” • Do you agree with this “moral reflection”? Explain. • You may believe that for most people, life is full of hardship, suffering, and sorrow, or you may see this view as too pessimistic—that life is what you make of it.
Making Inferences, p. 204 • Read the second paragraph through the fourth paragraph on p. 204 • What do these details tell you about the couple and the setting of the story? • The couple is poor, since they have a shabby apartment, their income has shrunk, and they can’t afford to fix things. The story takes place in the past, since both the rent and the husband’s income are far less than they would be today.
Diction—a writer’s choice of words • P. 205—”When Della reached home, her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task…” • This paragraph contains highly ornate diction. Paraphrase it in plain diction.
Diction, p. 205 • Sample paraphrase: • “When Della got home, her happiness lessened, and her mind turned to practical matters. To fix the damage love and generosity had caused, she tried to curl the hair she had left, but it wasn’t easy.”
Irony in “The Gift of the Magi” • On p. 206, paragraph fifteen, Della sees the combs that Jim has bought for her. • Why is this an ironic situation? • Possible answer: With her hair cut so short, Della has no use for the combs; it’s ironic because Della sold her hair to buy Jim a gift.
Irony in “The Gift of the Magi” • How does this “snapper”, or surprise twist—the fact that Jim has sold his watch—make the situation in the story even more ironic? • Sample answer: Both Della and Jim sacrificed their most cherished possession to buy something for use with the other’s most cherished possession.
Question 1, p. 209 • What do you think of O. Henry’s comments in the last paragraph of this story?
Question 3, p. 209 • Q: An ironic situation is one that turns out to be just the opposite of what we—or the characters in the story—expect. Describe the situational irony in this story. • Q: What lesson about life and love do you think it teaches Della and Jim?
Question 4, p. 209 • Q: What is the real “gift” referred to in the title? (Notice that O. Henry says “gift,” not “gifts.”)
Question 5, p. 209 • Q: A paradox is an apparent contradiction that is actually true. It may be a statement or a situation. Explain why the following statement is a paradox: Jim and Della were of the richest couples on earth.
Question 6, p. 209 • Q: Under what circumstances would you give up a cherished possession—as Jim and Della did?
Question 7, p. 209 • Q: What do you think this little story, written almost a century ago, has to say about our consumer society today? Do you think that we often equate love with money? Consider advertising, the amount of money we spend on gifts, the value placed on having many possessions.
Question 8, p. 209 • Q: O. Henry’s poverty-stricken couple is sustained by so much love that it is hard to imagine a cross word coming between the two of them. Suppose a writer with a view of the world different from O. Henry’s—someone who viewed the human nature as selfish—were to write about this struggling couple. How might the story change?
Question 9, p. 209 • Q: Describe your response to O. Henry’s ending—the “snapper.” Do you enjoy this kind of irony in stories or movies, or does it seem contrived—a trick played on the reader?