Situational Irony of the Story “The Gift of the Magi”

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I truly believe the theme of this story was that the true meaning of a gift can only be defined by its giver. The story at the beginning tells us that the couple, Della and Jim, owned two cherished items. Della’s luminous brown hair and Jim’s old gold family heirloom. But, later when Christmas came, they sacrificed those treasured items in exchange to give something for the each other. When the story told how Della, “stood still while a tear or two ran down her face” when she went to sell her hair in exchange for money to buy Jim a gift. The story also showed Jim to feel depressed when he walked in the door “looking very thin and he was not smiling.” This proves that something was wrong or not quite right. But, although they were sad to let their possessions go, they knew that all they needed was each other. And that’s a relationship worth all the prized possessions in the world.

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The story uses a positive feeling to describe this, it said, “Jim sat down and smiled. “Della, said he, “let’s put our Christmas gifts away and keep them a while. They’re too nice to use now. I sold the watch to get money to buy the combs. And now I think we should have our dinner.” The author may not a said it directly, but it was clear that they were happy in the end because Jim ended up smiling and I think Della did too. The thing is that if you were a rich fellow who bought something and gave it to someone it would be meaningless because you went through no hardships to get it unlike if you were poor and you bought the same gift that costed all you expenses. The person receiving the gift would feel more emotional for the person who was poor rather than the person who was rich.

Irony is when something happens that is the opposite from what is expected. There are three types of irony in literature: Verbal Irony, Situational Irony, and Dramatic Irony. Verbal irony is when the author uses words to mean something different from what a person actually says. For example, “Great I’ve got a 1000 page essay for homework today,” this is verbal irony. But, verbal irony is different from sarcasm. Sarcasm is like, “You call that thing cute?!” As you can see there is totally a huge difference between them. Situational irony is like expectation and reality except reality is the opposite from your expectation. For example, if a story title was called “War” you would expect the book to be about a war right? Well, what if that book was about a boy named War? Then that’s an example of a situational irony but don’t get this mixed up with coincidence or luck.

Dramatic irony is when the audience is aware of something the characters in the story don’t know. Dramatic irony has three stages. Installation, Exploitation, and Resolution. Installation is when the audience is informed of something the character does not know about. Kind of like when a book tells you what’s going to happen next but the character doesn’t know. Exploitation is using installation to create curiosity to the audience. Resolution is what happens when the character finally finds out what’s going on. There is also tragic irony. Tragic irony happens when a character in a play says or does something that has no meaning to him/her but is recognized by the audience. For example, when Snow White invited the old “granny” in the Dwarf’s house, she didn’t know that was the Evil Queen but the audience did.

Of all the irony described above, the one most fitted in the story The Gift of the Magi would be situational irony because when Della bought the gold chain for his pocket watch, she didn’t know he sold it. Also when Jim bought the combs for Della’s hair he didn’t know she sold her own hair to buy him a present for Christmas. This was an example of situational irony in this tale.

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Situational Irony of the Story "The Gift of the Magi". (2020, Nov 02). Retrieved February 8, 2023 , from

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