Theme and Narrative Elements in a Short Story Essay Ashford University Week 2 Assignment ENG 125 10/24/2011 A short story illustrates the effectiveness of the plot, particularly one that has a surprise ending such as, “The Gift of the Magi”. In this story of Jim and Della, they are approaching Christmas and have very little money to spend on one another. They each want to surprise the other one with a marvelous gift for Christmas but they have little money and Della only has $1. 87.
Della ends up cutting her hair for the money while Jim sells his cherished watch. Through selfless acts done for love, they each end up giving one another a Christmas gift they will always remember and cherish. It didn’t matter to either of them what they had to do in order to provide the gift. The theme was portrayed by the literary elements within the story. Plot, point of view and symbolism are just a few of the literary elements which helped developed the theme of the story. The story I read and critiqued was, “The gift of the Magi”.
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In order to find the theme of this short story, I had to look beyond the plot, which tells the reader what happened in the story (Clugston, 2010, section 5. 5). The theme of this story I believe would be “selfless love”. Other readers, who read the same short story as I did, might have an entirely different theme. This is actually to be expected and is even common. This is because every reader has a different relationship to literature due to each individual’s different experience throughout life.
The theme of selfless love, I chose due to I feel like the writer chose selfless love as the underlying idea of the story. The story did have items of joy, sadness, and generosity; however the underlying idea was how Jim and Della went to great lengths in order to make sure they each had an unbelievable present for Christmas for each other. The couple had no idea the other one was selling the most cherished item they had in order to buy their spouse a magnificent gift. Ironically in the end, Jim sold his cherished watch only to receive a nicer gold watch from Della.
Their selflessness and love for one another I believe was the overall concept of the story, which is why I chose selfless love as the theme of the story, the overall underlying idea. The theme of the story, “The Gift of the Magi” allowed the reader to understand the underlying idea however there were also many literary elements which contributed to the theme. The literary elements I will touch on are the point of view, tone, and symbolism. The point of view from the story I found to be third person limited omniscient.
Third person point of view is when the writer is not a participant in the story (Clugston, 2010, section 5. 5). Limited omniscient is when the thoughts and feelings of only one of the characters are told through the writer (Clugston, 2010, section 5. 5). In this story the narrator, or writer, told the story from the outside and was not an active character in the story. The writer did however express the feelings and thoughts of one of the characters, which was Della the wife. Jim, the husband, did not have his feelings and thoughts expressed in the story.
The other literary element was tone. Tone is the attitude reflected by the author in a literary work (Clugston, 2010, section 5. 5). There are different types of tones. The tone that best fits into this story would be ironic tone. Ironic tone is developed when a writer creates a discrepancy or contradiction between what is expected to happen in a story and what actually happens (Clugston, 2010, section 5. 5). As I read this story, the author made it seem like the character, Della, was poor and the story would be about her surviving or trying to raise money in order to survive.
Halfway through the story what was expected to happen changed and the reader realized the story was taking a turn when Della sold her hair and bought a nice gold watch for her husband for Christmas. So Della wasn’t truly broke and needed money, she just didn’t have enough money for a nice present. The gold watch plays a different role in the story as well. It is a symbolism in the story. Jim’s gold watch and Della’s hair are the two main symbolisms in the story. Jim’s gold watch symbolizes pride, value and generosity. Della’s hair symbolizes overall pride and beauty.
Even though Della’s hair would simply grow back over time, it meant so much more to both Della and Jim. The hair symbolized Della’s beauty and pride as her hair was her best attribute and she was proud of her hair. Without her hair, it didn’t change who she was but it did change how she looked and felt. The tone, point of view and symbolism of the story all played an effect on the narrative theme or underlying idea. The tone, which describes the story, is ironic tone. The author wrote this story with the idea of catching the readers off guard and wanting to change up the ending of the story.
Had the author not wanted to do this, the tone would have been different and therefore could have also changed the theme of the story, since the theme was part of the twist the author put in the story. This goes the same for how the author included his symbolisms and point of view into the story. Had the author made a different object a prime symbol in the story this could have changed the theme of the story from selfless love to say something which was drawn from the conclusion of the new symbolism.
Literary elements of a story all come together in a story to develop the story, characters and enlighten the theme to the readers. A short story illustrates the effectiveness of the plot, particularly one that has a surprise ending such as, The Gift of the Magi. In this story, the author has strong views and interjects them as the characters make decisions about Christmas gifts for one another. In the end, the characters decisions teach them a lot about the nature of selfless love and giving. Throughout the story, there were literary elements that helped draw the theme.
The plot, symbolisms and point of view were all the literary terms I analyzed as elements that helped to create the story to its theme. Without the literary elements, the theme could have been changed or different all together. In order for a short story to be complete, all these elements must be written to work together to form a complete collaborative piece of literature, which is what the story “The Gift of the Magi” did. References: 1. Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into Literature: Short Story: Plot, Point of View, Tone. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education.