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The two stories, “The Gift of The Magi” written by O. Henry and “The Necklace” written by Guy de Maupassant are separate pieces of writing, but when one takes the time to read them side by side, they notice several connections between the plot, theme, and the characters of the two stories. However, there are not only similarities one can infer, but also differences that make each story it’s own. These two stories compare and contrast as they both have similar plot outlines with ironic endings.
The themes in both narratives oppose one another. Also, the manner in which both authors of the stories have portrayed the relationship between the two couples (Della and Jim/Mr. and Ms. Loisel) is considerably different.
Both these stories follow a similar plot style and therefore many comparisons can be found. “The Gift of The Magi” revolves around the lead protagonist Della, who has a low social class in society and struggles to save money to buy a suitable gift for her husband.
Della is obsessed with finding “Something fine and rare” (Henry, 2) that she can give to her husband for Christmas. Della had saved up “One dollar eighty-seven cents. That was all. […] Three times [she] counted it” (Henry,1) and this wasn’t enough to buy Jim a Present, so she sold her most prized possession and bought Jim a materialistic present which she hoped would make him love her more. Della gave up all the money she had and her hair to buy the gift, resulting in her being even more financially unhealthy then when she started off in the story.
In “The Necklace”, Mathilde who is the lead protagonist, is a poor (relative to other women in the story) wife to a clerk. She is upset with her place in life because she feels as if “she had really fallen from a higher station”, (Maupassant,1) and obsessively envies the rich for their luxury. Mathilde much like Della ends up being more financially troubled compared to what she started with, because of her unhealthy desire to gain materialistic luxuries to make her feel content with her life.
Both characters followed a materialistic mindset that leads them to their ironic endings. These two stories and their plots compare as both feature female protagonists. Also, the structure of both stories compares, as they both introduce a poor/relatively poor couple in which the wife chases after materialistic items. Mathilde in “The Necklace”, ends up losing the diamond necklace, and everything she had which she initially thought was not enough for someone like her, “She came to know what heavy housework meant and the odious cares of the kitchen”. (Maupassant,6) Della on the other hand ended up cutting her hair for Jim’s present, but his presence was a comb for her hair. Della and Jim rejoiced over their gifts despite not having any immediate use for them. The difference of conclusion in these two stories was a result of the themes portrayed by the two central characters in each of their stories.
Although the plots of these two stories are fairly similar, the themes present in both narratives oppose each other. For “The Necklace”, the common theme portrayed is one of greed and being self-conscious, and for “The Gift of The Magi” the common theme was one of generosity and the lengths which one goes for another. The two themes clearly oppose each other because greed and generosity are antonyms of one another. In “The Necklace”, Mathilde is approached by her husband for an opportunity to attend a grand event, but Mathilde is quick to turn it down because she is not “equipped” to go. Mr. Loisel tells her, “why, the gown you go to the theatre in. It looks very well to me”, (Maupassant, 2) but she refused to wear a cheap outfit because she did not want to look “poverty-stricken” by the rich people attending the function. Mr. Loisel is forced to buy a gown for her for “400 francs” which was the amount he had saved up to go for “a little shooting next summer […] with several friends” (Maupassant, 3). She complains about how she had not “a single piece of jewelry, not a single ornament, nothing to put on”, (Maupassant, 3) which shows us that she is ungrateful for what she has and what her husband had sacrificed for her. In “The Gift of The Magi”, Della has only “$1.87” to by her husband a present for Christmas, but not an ordinary present instead “something fine and rare and sterling-something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim”. (Henry, 2) This leads her to give up her most prized possession (her hair), which shows us the level of generosity and selflessness she will go to for love. There is a direct contrast between the two leads of each narrative and how they portrayed different attitudes toward life, which is shown through their actions and the theme learned from the story. One can also look at the relationship between both couples and compare them to one another to further support the theme.
Furthermore, both stories revolved around a couple composed of a husband and wife and therefore we can compare the relationships of each couple to one another. In both narratives, the husband shows love and compassion for his wife and sacrifices something valuable to him to make her happy. In “The Necklace”, Mr. Loisel was “laying aside [400 francs] to buy a gun and treat himself to a little shooting next summer”, but instead he agreed to give “four hundred francs” to his wife so she could have a “pretty gown” (Maupassant, 3) so she would feel better about herself. In “The Gift of The Magi”, Jim comforts Della as she shows him her trimmed hair by saying, “I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less”. (Henry, 5) Jim also sacrifices his “gold watch” to buy Della the comb for her hair that she was dying to get. This shows us that Jim, as well as Mr. Loisel both, love and show signs of affection towards their wives. On the other hand, Mathilde in “The Necklace” shows no sign of compassion to her husband and refers to him as a “little clerk of the Ministry of Public Instruction”. (Maupassant, 1) Della much like Jim and Mr. Loisel portrays fondness towards her partner which can be shown through her sacrificing her “beautiful hair” to buy Jim his Christmas present. This example between the two couples effectively further shows us yet another comparison that can be made between the stories.
To conclude, “The Necklace” and the “The Gift of The Magi” are two well-written stories which are distinct from one another, but also share a number of similarities and differences which can be supported through each of their respective text. These two interesting and ironic stories revolve around central characters, both trying to make their own or someone else’s life better by using money. The difference between the two stories is when push came to shove, the manner in which the protagonists chose to spend their money is vastly different. Lastly, both stories deal with two female leads struggling to make someone happy and how it affected them financially. The overall lesson which I’ve learned from analyzing both stories is not to associate the value of life with what you do not have and make the most of what you have been given.
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