Both “The necklace” written by Guy de Maupassant and
“The Gift of Magi” written by O. Henry, are an amazing story written by
probably two of the best short story writers. Both of the stories are on two
beautiful young women Mathilde from “The necklace” and Della from “The Gift of
Magi”. Even though they are in different stories which has similar
characteristics that convey throughout the story such as, they are both
financially and emotionally depressed, and have loving husbands. Throughout the
stories they have many similarities, however there are some differences.

Overview

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“The Necklace” by Guy De Maupassant, was written in
1884 and portrays the life of a slightly poor Parisian couple, the Loisel’s.
Mathilde always felt mediocre and unhappy about their status. When they’re both
invited to a high-class party, she asks one of her friend who is rich to lend
her a diamond necklace to match her outfit. While returning from the party, Mathilde
realizes that she’s lost the diamond necklace. As it couldn’t be found, the
couple buys a very similar one for a really high price, which they go into debt
for, and they give it to the woman, Mme. Forestier, without mentioning what had
happened. A decade later, when the entire debt has been paid off, Mathilde
meets her old friend again and decides to tell her the truth, after which Mme.
Forestier answers with surprise that the original necklace had been an
imitation, worth not even a tenth of the price they had paid.

“The Gift of the Magi” is a short story written in
1906 by O. Henry, based on a young couple living in a small New York apartment
with very few stuff belonging to them, of which only two can be considered as
their pride: The man’s gold watch and his wife, Della’s, long and beautiful
hair. When Christmas Day comes, Della realizes that she must sell her hair if
she wants to buy her husband a good present, and she does so; she uses the
money to buy him a platinum chain for his watch. However, when they meet again,
they realize that they have each sacrificed what was most worthy to them in
order to buy each other the presents they had wanted; Della gave away her hair
to buy the chain, while Jim, her husband, sold his watch to buy her a set of
combs. In the end, they decide not to talk anymore about their gifts and have
dinner together instead.

Love and relationship

Even though both The Gift of the Magi and The Necklace
portray certain events in the life of a married couple, the relationships they
have with each other appear to be completely different. In the case of the
Youngs, they seem to have an almost perfect, happy and balanced relationship;
the Loisel’s, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as balanced or idealistic as
them. This could perhaps be since, while in the case of the Youngs it is
implied that they married out of free will, in the story about the Loisel’s the
reader is told that Mathilde “let herself be married off to a little clerk in
the Ministry of Education”, implying that she did so out of social reasons
instead of emotional ones. Mathilde strikes the reader as a woman deeply in
love with herself and with superficial trivialities, which probably meant that
she didn’t have the emotional maturity to be in a relationship with someone
else, let alone a marriage, and so she wasn’t only unwilling but also unable to
return her husband’s affection. However, in The Necklace, it could be said that
their relationship isn’t the center of the story, as is the case with The Gift
of the Magi, since the emphasis is put on Mathilde’s attitude and
transformation.

Sacrifice

Sacrifice is when a person gives up something of great
value for the sake of principal, this can be seen in both the stories. Both
stories portray their main characters as such at certain moments. In The Gift
of the Magi, this is a pretty straightforward symbol since both partners
literally sacrificed their most valuable items for each other; meanwhile, in
The Necklace, there’s a distinct change in Mathilde, since at the beginning she
is filled with self-pity and believes herself to be a sacrifice when nothing
could be further from the truth – in any case, her husband would be the one,
since he sacrificed many things for her happiness. However, as the story
progresses you can see that her attitude towards life changes and that, having
lost all her money and beauty to pay away her debt, she has become a different,
more mature person. In both stories we can see that sacrifices were made from
love and pride – perhaps for certain characters more of one than the other, but
nevertheless, these two elements were present as part of their decisions.

Wealth

 One of the most
noticeable aspects in both stories is the amount of material wealth, or lack
connection, that the couples have. The authors, through the use of certain
imagery, have set the characters in an uncomfortable, dull environment, as can
be evidenced in descriptions such as “a furnished flat at $8 per week (…) did
not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout
for the mendicancy squad” (Henry, 1906) or “(…) the poorness of her house, from
its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains” (Maupassant,1884). The exact
extent of each couple’s financial poorness is somewhat debatable, though, since
one could get the impression that the Youngs are of a low working class while
the Loisel’s could be considered as part of the middle class before the first
turn of events in their story (after which they do find themselves in the
lowest socioeconomic segment of the population). All in all, it is evident that
in both cases the protagonists are facing financial hardships and that these innocently
dominate their actions; however, it’s interesting to observe what is making the
contrast with their material status in each story, since for the marriage in
The Gift of the Magi, the exterior “drabness” is what emphasizes the cozy,
loving atmosphere between them, pointing towards the vast amounts of immaterial
wealth they have simply by sharing their lives with each other, while in the
story of The Necklace, the only comparison done about their current status
comes from Mathilde, who is constantly lamenting the fact that those from a
higher class have luxuries she doesn’t, thus taking into account nothing else
but their material riches.

 Conclusion

In conclusion, there are multiple main themes (love,
sacrifice, and wealth) that can be seen in both “The Gift of the Magi” and “The
Necklace”. Both stories include sacrifice and irony, which differ in blame, attitude,
and identity. The actual difference between the similar protagonists due to their
situation is amazing, since it shows that the main difference is in how they observe
things to be, not how they really are.

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