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Archetypal Critical Theory: Gift of the Magi

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In literature, symbolism is crucial to portray the author’s vision for the story. Each ornament presented through the story line can be viewed as a symbol that can potentially be related to the literature. Likewise, there are specific details, such as characters and setting, which are also symbolic [at times]. O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” gives portrays archetypal literary criticism structure. Henry’s piece of literature contain numerous accounts of symbolic ornaments that can be considered an allusion or directly symbolic to “The Gift of the Magi.” O. Henry’s, “The Gift of the Magi” shows proof of archetypal literary criticism by portraying the conflict of the story, and showing reference to the Christmas theme of “sacrifice.” Jim and Della, both, gave up the most important items to them, in order to buy a gift for each other. “Will you buy my hair?” (Henry 185). Henry portrays the reference of the “Three Wise Men” through his word choice and well depicted scenery. “The magi brought valuable gift but that was not among them.” (Henry 186).

For example, according to the story of Jesus Christ, when Jesus was born, three men set from Persia to shower him with gifts such as gold. Henry‘s allusion towards the Christmas tale, explains the irony of each gift the couple bought for one another. The archetypal literature criticism specifically relates to “The Gift of the Magi” through the allusions and the specifics of the tale. The importance of Jim’s watch, and Della’s hair is not the item, but the sacrifice they make to purchase a gift for each other. “’Cut if off and sold it,’ said Della.” (Henry 186). O. Henry continues to say “The magi, as you know, were wise men, who brought gift to the Babe [Jesus Christ] in the manger.” (187). Henry claims the magi’s invented the art of gift giving (Henry 187). As the story’s rising action continues toward the climax, Henry’s diction continues to relate directly to the “Three Wise Man” from the story of Christ.

“Quietness and value – the description applied to both.” (Henry 185). “The Gift of the Magi” is a prime example of the archetypal critical theory. According to critic, Kirkus, the short story “The Gift of the Magi” clearly depicts the true meaning of Christmas through the plot line. “Each wants to buy a special Christmas gift for the other, but there is only a little money for presents” (Kirkus). When Della decides to sell her luscious hair to gain the money to buy Jim a chain for the watch. This sacrifice shows the moral Henry intended. The story’s development is crucial for the audience to gain empathy toward the couple. The empathetic emotion helps the audience understand Della. Henry portrays Della as a woman whom is worried about her husband “not loving her the same” since she cut her hair drastically. This states that Della is a self-conscious person, whom wishes to bring happiness to others, even if it can result in a loss for herself.

Another critic, named Jeffery Sheler, elaborates on the idea, “The Gift of the Magi” portrays several examples of archetypal critical theory. Sheler states “divine beacon sent to guide the gift-bearing wise men to the scene of the Nativity” (2). He claims the Magi brought gift to the scene of Jesus’ birth on account a star a Bethlehem. Sheler, too, claims this story, “The Gift of the Magi” clearly depicts the reference of the “Three Wise Men” and portrays the true moral of Christmas through the sacrifices each made for themselves.

When Jim explains they were to put their gifts up until they became of use to them, instead of being annoyed, shows how relieved he felt, thanks to Della’s sacrifice. The archetypal theory is genuinely portrayed through the moral of the story. In the end, O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” is a prime valid, example of the archetypal literary criticism. O. Henry clearly depicted the sense of sacrifice by using the allusion of the “Three Wise Men” from the biblical story of Jesus Christ’s birth. Della and Jim were the protagonist of this story however, the economy was the antagonist. This is clearly relatable to the present day issues we suffer from.

Works Cited

Henry, O. “The Gift of the Magi.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Drama, Poetry and Writing. 12th Ed.

“The Gift Of The Magi.” Kirkus Reviews 81.20 (2013): 228. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.

Sheler, Jeffrey L. “A Gift To The Magi, Explained.” U.S. News & World Report
127.24 (1999): 58. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.

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