Places: The Gift of the Magi

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1905

Type of work: Short fiction

Type of plot: Moral

Time of work: Early twentieth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*New York City

*New Gift of the Magi, TheYork City. Crowded city in which the Youngs rent for eight dollars per month a second-story flat. It is furnished, but with obviously second-hand and outdated furniture. O. Henry skillfully evokes the shabbiness of the rented rooms and the building that contains them, calling attention to such details as the nonfunctional mailslot in the lobby and the broken doorbell. Within the flat itself, he points out the worn carpet and couch and the almost useless piece of mirror that Della has for making herself up.

It is essential that the narrator explain the poor circumstances in which the loving couple do live. The lack of any elegance or pride in their immediate surroundings must be emphasized so readers understand why it is so vital that each character present the other with a wonderful Christmas gift. Surroundings so dismal make both Jim and Della yearn for any possession of substantial beauty and worth as a gift. However, what each sacrifices to please the other makes the other’s gift useless.

BibliographyCurrent-Garcia, Eugene. O. Henry (William Sydney Porter). New York: Twayne, 1965. Includes a biography of O. Henry and a critical analysis of his work’s structure and its technical characteristics. Analyzes his popularity and the subsequent decline of his reputation. Discusses his influence on the development of the American short story.Langford, Gerald. Alias O. Henry: A Biography of William Sydney Porter. New York: Macmillan, 1957. Analyzes the work as well as the life of the writer. Asserts that O. Henry’s rightful place in American literature is that of a minor but classic writer.Long, E. Hudson. O. Henry: The Man and His Work. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949. This biography makes a case for O. Henry as a “humorist, craftsman, and social historian.” Long claims that O. Henry is properly understood and appreciated in the context of the times in which he lived and the audience for which he wrote.O’Connor Richard. O. Henry: The Legendary Life of William Porter. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1970. Traces the life of O. Henry from his boyhood in North Carolina through his Texas and Ohio prison years, and, finally, to New York. Vividly portrays the early twentieth century New York City evoked in his work.Smith, C. Alphonso. O. Henry. Edgemont, Pa.: Chelsea House, 1980. Reprint. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Page, 1916. A biography and analysis of O. Henry’s work written by a professor who knew O. Henry. Most interesting because, having been written in 1916, during the height of his popularity, it reveals a great deal about late Victorian culture and literary tastes.
Categories: Places