Thursday, April 21, 2016

“…two foolish children…”

And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house."
From “The Gift of the Magi” in The Four Million
By O. Henry

If you’re an O. Henry fan, you know the whole story of Della and Jim, the two foolish children who sold a beloved gold pocket watch and an entrancing fall of brown hair to buy innocently painful Christmas gifts for each other…even if you’re not an O. Henry fan, I’ll bet you know the story.

“The Gift of the Magi” is a signature O. Henry piece, with achingly real characters slip-sliding through lives shackled by just a touch too much hardship and garlanded with magnificently understated and oh-so-richly-expressed love, such love as never recedes or withers….

Mr. and Mrs. James Dillingham Young unselfconsciously give a master class in young love. The reader wants to be one of them despite their shabby flat and the narrow strictures of a tiny income and the endless prospect of a lesser cut of chops frying in the pan on the back of the tiny stove. The single-minded devotion—their profound and profligate endearment—of Jim and Della illuminates the power of O. Henry’s prose, and the delicacy of his imagination.

William Sydney Porter (1862-1910) used his pen name, O. Henry, for his published work. “The Gift of the Magi” was part of The Four Million, his second short story collection, when it appeared 110 years ago. He wrote nearly 300 stories.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

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