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Comparing and Contrasting “The Necklace” and “The Gift of the Magi” Essay

The main character in The Necklace’s, and the main character in The Gift of the Magi’s, personalities differ from one another vastly. In The Necklace, the main character Mathilde Loisel is an ungrateful middle class woman who seeks riches and admiration. Alternatively, the main character in The Gift of the Magi, Della Young, is compassionate and works very hard to buy her husband a present, and ultimately, selling the one thing that was more precious to her than anything else, her hair. Mathilde is selfish, and when her friend, Madame Foreister is sympathetic enough to let her borrow her jewelry, Mathilde asks rudely, “Haven’t you anything else?” (Maupassant, ¶39). In contrast, Della is very appreciative when she receives a hairpin, and is very unselfish when giving away her hair to buy a present for her husband. Mathilde and Della are also both remotely poor. In the beginning of The Necklace, Mathilde and her husband were pretty well off, not too rich, and very simple.

But at the end of the story, they are dirt poor, having spent 10 years paying debts. On the other hand, Della started out fairly poor, only being able to gather $1.87 for a Christmas present, but enjoyed life all the same. These two women are also unlike one another because of how they treat their husbands. When thinking about what to get her husband Jim, Della thought, “Something fine and rare and sterling–something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.” (Henry, ¶6) This quote shows how much Della loves her husband, and how she thinks it is the best thing in the world to be his, and to be married to him. Meanwhile, instead of feeling like her husband “won” her heart, Mathilde feels like she settled for him. She shows these feelings for her husband when O. Henry writes “…and she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education.” (Maupassant, ¶1).

Madame Loisel also does not show gratitude towards her husband when he acquired the tickets to the party, and when he spent all that money buying her a dress when he really could have bought something for himself. On the other hand, Mrs. Young is very flattered when her husband buys her a present, even one that she has no use for. Both The Necklace’s, and The Gift of the Magi’s, endings are ironic. In The Necklace, Mathilde and her husband spend most of their young life paying off a huge debt because of a diamond necklace that she had lost. 10 years later, she ran into the friend from whom she borrowed the necklace from, and found out that the necklace they thought was thirty-six thousand francs was only five hundred.

The Gift of the Magi ended in a more comical irony than The Necklace’s cynical irony. Della had cut her long, lushes hair to buy Jim a chain for his pocket watch, and Jim sold his prized pocket watch to buy Della a lavish pin for her hair. The Young couple didn’t mind that they both bought something the other one no longer needed, they were just happy to have each other. People are confronted with choices every day, and in The Necklace by Guy De Maupassant and The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, the main characters make subconscious choices to act selfish, or to act grateful.


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