In “The Gift of a Magi,” the theme is the most important literary element and is the “driving force” in the story. The theme can be that love and sacrifice is treasured above all else. The theme is showed when Della and Jim sell their most prized possession, which is the sacrifice, and buys each other a gift, which is the love. This led to Della and Jim being portrayed as foolish and childish, but they treasured that ironic moment which was filled with love and sacrifice, and set aside their materials gifts. Also, the author’s focus of writing the story was to get the theme across to the reader. This is because the author did believe the theme was true.
This is captured when O. Henry says, “Let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest.” The author meant Della and Jim when he said this. The theme therefore can be described as the foundation of the story, so if there was no theme, the whole story would fall apart. So since theme is established as a foundation it affects most of the literary elements but it is also affected by two others. Finally, theme is the main literary element since it plays a big role in the story since the author actually believes it and therefore wants to get it across to the reader.
First, theme affects irony. The irony happens when the reader finds out that Della bought a fob chain for Jim’s watch and sells her hair to get it but it is immediately found out later in the story that Jim sold his gold watch to get combs for Della’s hair. Irony is affected by theme because if the author did not think love and sacrifice was treasured above all, he would not create the irony. This is because at the same time, the irony helps the author get his point across that love and sacrifice are treasured above all else since this belief is described and shown by the irony. Irony affects the mood since the irony changes the reader’s feelings. Throughout the story, the reader feel anxious because he or she does not know what Della will do to buy Jim a present and is on the edge of his or her seat when Della cuts her hair.
The mood changes after the ironic sacrifice and then the reader feels uplifted because of the character’s love and willingness to sacrifice. Next, irony is affected by point of view and conflict. Irony is affected by conflict because since the author knows only Della’s thoughts or third person limited, the irony is not given away by the thoughts of Jim. This is because if the reader knew that Jim has sold his watch to get Della combs for her hair, the reader would expect the ironic sacrifice and there would be no surprise. Irony is affected by conflict because if Della was not in a battle with herself, which is Person versus self, Della would not sell her hair which is one step of the irony and if Della and Jim were not poor, which is person versus society, they would not have to sacrifice so much. This also ties in with setting because if the story did not happen during Christmas time, the characters would not be in such a rush to get gifts for each other. Finally, irony is affected by tone because the author creates the irony to complete his agenda of getting the theme across.
The mood in the story is also affected by the theme and can be described as one of warmth and happiness. This is because of the Della and Jim’s willingness to give which describes the main point of the theme. The mood can also be warmth and happiness because the theme that is put across can make the reader feel warmth and happiness. Love over everything else can make the reader feel different feelings all at once like joy since love is treasured but melancholy since sacrifice is also involved. This feeling is held on throughout the story until the very end, where the reader is surprised and either feels Della and Jim are like Magi, wise which is the author’s perspective, or like children who are foolish. The perspective of the reader depends on the emotions and beliefs of the reader. The tone can also affect the mood. The tone in “The Gift of a Magi” can be described as sentimentalism meaning warm or tender feelings. This is because the author thinks that Jim and Della are the wisest because the gift of love and sacrifice, which the author thinks is far better than any other material gift.
This attitude of the author describes the theme which is love and sacrifice is treasured above all. The tone is affected by theme because the main point on the author’s agenda could be to get the theme across to the reader which is the tone since it is the author’s feelings or attitude to what he writes. Tone also affects mood because the author shapes the story to make the reader feel warmth. This is because the author wants the reader to also understand and take up the perspective that love and sacrifice is treasured above all. This point is stressed over and over again throughout the story whether it is through the irony or the plot where Della cuts her hair to buy a present or where Jim sells his watch to get combs for Della’s hair. Tone also affects irony because to get his point across, the author creates the irony as stated before. So without the current view of the author and the main focus of the story, being the theme, the author would have no point of creating the irony. This again proves the importance of the theme. Tone also affects character because to get the point across, the author makes the characters poor, but loving and compassionate toward each other.
The characters in “The Gift of a Magi” are Della and Jim. Della is a beautiful, caring woman who has long hair and wants the best for her husband. Jim is a worried man who wants the best for his wife Della and who has a gold watch. Characters affect the theme because if they did not care for each other so much, the author would not be able to convey the theme, and the author’s point of writing the story, or the tone, would be gone. Since the characters are compassionate, caring and loving, they can show their love and sacrifice to the reader and at the same time, effectively getting the theme across to the reader. The characters affect the mood because since they are poor and have many good qualities, the reader feels compassion and warms to the character. Next, if they were not poor, they would not have to pay for the gifts by selling their most prized possession which plays an important in the definition of love and sacrifice.
There would also be no irony. Character also affects mood because their love for each other would not touch the reader if they had different personalities. Characters, particularly Della, affect conflict because their personalities that show care and love play a key role in the conflict. The conflict can be described as person versus self, or Della versus Della. Della is not sure what to get her husband and wants the best for her husband but has to sell her most prized possession for money. This is the conflict and if Della was not so loving and caring, she would not hesitate in not buying her husband a present. Setting and character create conflict because since the characters are poor and it is around Christmas time, the characters are in a rush to buy presents. This is person versus society because they are poor and cannot afford for presents but it is Christmas, so they are determined to buy presents for each other.
They are so determined that they even sacrificed their most prized possession that the author compared to famous people, Solomon and Sheba. Setting also affects character because if they did not live in a flat in a poor neighbor in the early twentieth century, they would not be poor which plays a key role in the personalities of Della and Jim. The author would not be able to shape the story to make the theme what it is and therefore, tone would not be affected by the theme. Without setting, all the other literary elements would collapse like a domino effect. Even though theme is the “driving force” of the story, setting plays a major role in the story. Finally if the setting was not during Christmas time, Della and Jim would not be in such a rush to buy each other presents instead of saving and then later buying presents if it was before or after Christmas. Therefore, theme is the main literary element in “The Gift of a Magi” and affects or is affected by many of the literary elements.