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The Comparative Analysis of The Gift of The Magi and The Story of an Hour

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American literature varies from other literary works across the world. Every story seems to express a different theme, and yet somehow they all seem similar. The Gift of the Magi and The Story of an Hour, written within 15 years of each other, at first glance seem to be two unrelated stories, but after delving into them, it is clear that both contain similar elements, such as theme, time, and perspective, along with many contrasting views.

The overall theme of both short stories is sacrificial love, even though different aspects of it are revealed. The Gift of Magi establishes the author’s vision of the selfless love between a husband and wife, while The Story of an Hour explores the overwhelming love of freedom that comes from the loss of a marriage. The reader sees in the first story how the wife, Della Young, makes an altruistic decision and gives up her most prized possession in order to buy her husband a Christmas gift. When learning of her husband’s death, Mrs. Mallard is overcome with despair until she looks out the window and begins to yearn for freedom which overpowers her love for her husband to her dismay.

The death of a dream is also a prominent theme throughout both stories. In The Gift of the Magi, all Della wants in life is to give her husband, Jim, the perfect gift, but because they’re so poor she has to sell her hair to afford the gold watch chain. As she patiently waits at home for Jim to return, she is overwhelmed by excitement and nerves as she hopes that her dream of giving the most outstanding present will come true. To her apprehension, he, in turn, had the same dream and sold his most valuable possession, his golden watch, to buy Della expensive combs for her hair. At long last, their “perfect gifts” became useless to the recipient and the dream was dead. Similar to this, in The Story of an Hour, when Mrs. Mallard is informed of her husband’s death, she begins to dream of the freedom she’ll now have without him. There would no longer be a more “powerful will bending hers,” or anyone “to live for during those coming years,” besides herself. Following her newfound, but short-lived dream of freedom, her husband returns home, neither dead nor injured. Ripped away from her, she immediately dies along with her dream.

The late 1800s and the early 1900s was a time of sweeping change concerning gender roles in society. Women were often overlooked by men and their opinions were viewed as lesser, yet in American literature we begin to see a certain level of equality forming. Although both stories are written with women as the protagonists, The Story of an Hour was written by a woman, Kate Chopin, and The Gift of the Magi was written by a man, O. Henry. It gives perspective into how the views of gender roles differed in this time period. O. Henry’s story portrays the wife as loving and devoted to her husband, never once wishing for something more than her cozy housewife life, but in Chopin’s story she depicts Mrs. Mallard as not being satisfied with the oppression of her will. She wants to live a free life for herself, with no one else to bend her will. These differences show the discrepancies in how both genders viewed women’s oppression.

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