Both “The necklace” written by Guy de Maupassant and”The Gift of Magi” written by O. Henry, are an amazing story written byprobably two of the best short story writers.
Both of the stories are composedof two young, beautiful women Mathilde from “The necklace” and Della from “TheGift of Magi”. Even though they are in different stories that have similarcharacteristics that convey throughout the story such as, they are bothfinancially and emotionally depressed, and have loving husbands. Throughout thestories they have many similarities, however there are some differences.
Overview”The Necklace” by Guy De Maupassant, was written in1884 and portrays the life of a somewhat poor Parisian couple, the Loisel’s, ofwhich Mathilde, the woman, always felt mediocre and unhappy. When they’re bothinvited to a high-class party, she asks a rich friend of hers to lend her adiamond necklace to match her outfit. While returning from the party, Mathildediscovers that she’s lost the necklace. As it couldn’t be found, the couplebuys a very similar one for an excessive price, which they go deeply into debtfor, and they give it to the other woman, Mme. Forestier, without mentioningwhat 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, afterwhich Mme. Forestier answers with surprise that the original necklace had beenan imitation worth not even a tenth of the price they had paid.”The Gift of the Magi” is a 1906 short story by O.
Henry centered on a young couple living in a small New York apartment with veryfew material belongings, of which only two can be considered as their pride:The man’s gold watch and his wife, Della’s, long and beautiful hair. WhenChristmas Day comes, Della realizes that she must sell her hair if she wants tobuy her husband a good present, and so she does; she uses the money to buy hima platinum chain for his watch. However, when they meet again, they realizethat they have each sacrificed what was most worthy to them in order to buyeach other the presents they had wanted; Della gave away her hair to buy thechain, while Jim, her husband, sold his watch to buy her a set of combs.
In theend, they decide not to talk anymore about their gifts and have dinner togetherinstead. Love and relationshipEven though both The Gift of the Magi and The Necklaceportray certain events in the life of a married couple, the relationships theyhave with each other appear to be completely different. In the case of theYoungs, 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 asthem. This could perhaps be since, while in the case of the Youngs it isimplied that they married out of free will, in the story about the Loisel’s thereader is told that Mathilde “let herself be married off to a little clerk inthe Ministry of Education”, implying that she did so out of social reasonsinstead of emotional ones. Mathilde strikes the reader as a woman deeply inlove with herself and with superficial trivialities, which probably meant thatshe didn’t have the emotional maturity to be in a relationship with someoneelse, let alone a marriage, and so she wasn’t only unwilling but also unable toreturn her husband’s affection. However, in The Necklace, it could be said thattheir relationship isn’t the center of the story, as is the case with The Giftof the Magi, since the emphasis is put on Mathilde’s attitude andtransformation.
Sacrifice Sacrifice is when a person gives up something of greatvalue for the sake of principal, this can be seen in both the stories. Bothstories portray their main characters as such at certain moments. In The Giftof the Magi, this is a pretty straightforward symbol since both partnersliterally sacrificed their most valuable items for each other; meanwhile, inThe Necklace, there’s a distinct change in Mathilde, since at the beginning sheis filled with self-pity and believes herself to be a sacrifice when nothingcould 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 storyprogresses you can see that her attitude towards life changes and that, havinglost 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 fromlove and pride – perhaps for certain characters more of one than the other, butnevertheless, these two elements were present as part of their decisions.PrideEven though at first glance the main characters inboth stories don’t seem particularly similar in terms of personality, it couldbe argued that they share one important defect, or characteristic: they are tooprideful to consider conducting themselves in a less radical way, which led toa certain degree of dishonesty and glaring communication issues, besides unnecessarysacrifices. In the case of the Youngs, neither of them can admit that theydon’t have enough money to buy each other amazing presents, but instead ofdiscussing this situation and perhaps reaching a better arrangement, they don’tthink twice about giving away their most valuable items (both materially andsentimentally) to create the illusion of being able to gift luxuries.
TheLoisel’s, however, and Mathilde, seem to have a larger amount of issuesrelating to this, as from the very beginning she’s described as an excessivelyprideful woman with unrealistic aspirations, which is what dominates her lifeand makes her so miserable at first; later, she and her husband end up horriblycompromising their finances for years instead of simply admitting the loss ofthe necklace to Mme. Forestier. In neither case did any of them consider actingdifferently, most likely because of their own complexes; consequently, it canbe said that both marriages were concerned with their appearance to theexternal world and to others in a certain way, even if in The Gift of the Magithis wasn’t as obviously put as in The Necklace, in which it would seem to bethe main cautionary theme of the story. Wealth One of the mostnoticeable aspects in both stories is the amount of material wealth, or lackconnection, that the couples have. The authors, through the use of certainimagery, have set the characters in an uncomfortable, dull environment, as canbe evidenced in descriptions such as “a furnished flat at $8 per week (…) didnot exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookoutfor the mendicancy squad” (Henry, 1906) or “(…) the poorness of her house, fromits mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains” (Maupassant,1884).
The exactextent of each couple’s financial poorness is somewhat debatable, though, sinceone could get the impression that the Youngs are of a low working class whilethe Loisel’s could be considered as part of the middle class before the firstturn of events in their story (after which they do find themselves in thelowest socioeconomic segment of the population). All in all, it is evident thatin both cases the protagonists are facing financial hardships and that these innocentlydominate their actions; however, it’s interesting to observe what is making thecontrast with their material status in each story, since for the marriage inThe Gift of the Magi, the exterior “drabness” is what emphasizes the cozy,loving atmosphere between them, pointing towards the vast amounts of immaterialwealth they have simply by sharing their lives with each other, while in thestory of The Necklace, the only comparison done about their current statuscomes from Mathilde, who is constantly lamenting the fact that those from ahigher class have luxuries she doesn’t, thus taking into account nothing elsebut their material riches. ConclusionIn conclusion, there are multiple main themes (love,sacrifice, pride and wealth) that can be seen in both “The Gift of the Magi”and “The Necklace”. Both stories include sacrifice and irony, which differ inblame, attitude, and identity. The actual difference between the similarprotagonists due to their situation is amazing, since it shows that the main differenceis in how they observe things to be, not how they really are.