The Last Leaf and The Gift of the Magi are two renowned accounts by William Sydney Porter, commonly known by his American pen name, O. Henry. Unlike the various writers of our time, O. Henry is a unique and idiosyncratic author who gives extreme emphasis on the special yet laborious skill of irony in each of the short stories he composes. Known for his unanticipated plot twists, both stories The Last Leaf as well as The Gift of the Magi bear a bombshell revelation, leaving you with an astonished feeling of disbelief. However, under all the unexpected plot twists and unpredicted changes, O. Henry implements a deeper meaning to all of his stories which teach an impactful and essential moral to apply to our daily lives, as demonstrated by these two stories.
The Last Leaf is a heart-touching story about two close companions by the names of Sue and Johnsy, who share an indissoluble friendship even when life gives them constant hardships and worries. When Johnsy gets infected with the malignant disease of Pneumonia, the story introduces Mr. Behrman,a scoffy, old man working as a model for the young women, who in turn, decides to sacrifice his life, to preserve another’s.
On the other hand The Gift of the Magi, is a story demonstrating a couple’s quest to find each other the ideal Christmas gift by sacrificing their own, cherished possessions. However, they come to realize the fact that their love offered more than any gift could possibly satisfy. In both of these stories, O. Henry demonstrates the salient example of self-sacrifice and love, which is a key message that we should apply to our lives as well.
Both Mr. Behrman as well as Jim and Della made the crude decision to sacrifice their own happinesses of life, for the sake of someone else. Giving up our most prized keepsakes in life, is definitely not a simple task, as most people understand it. In fact, it may leave an everlasting and unattended scar in our lives, that can never be erased, bothering us forever.
Yet, even so, everywhere, even in our own homes and towns, people make arduous sacrifices in order for peace to be reached, happiness to be gained, and love to sustain, forever. Both stories manifest an essential example of this special sacrifice, making them similar. Another example of the similarity between the two stories would be the extravagant message that both stories share.
The Last Leaf and The Gift of the Magi both emphasize the theme that it is better to give than to receive, for then, we will achieve the greatest treasure life could ever offer. Pablo Picasso once said,” The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.
” By giving, we will not lose anything, but instead, we gain something even better than the rest. Both stories also deal with the concept of optimism during hard times, like a tiny ray of hope amidst the clouds of difficulty and despair. In The Gift of the Magi, even amongst the various financial problems they had, Jim and Della proved that their love had the strength to overcome all obstacles that confronted their path. Likewise, in The Last Leaf, Johnsy, who lost her grip on life, found hope through the last leaf,clinging on the tree portrayed by Mr. Behrman’s painting, which he drew the night, the last leaf fell. For a great proverb says,” Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it because a butterfly.” In addition, both accounts used a situational irony, an ending which was unanticipated by the reader, happening contrary to what was expected.
However, these stories do have some differences. Both Jim and Della made immense sacrifices for each other based on their love. Therefore, it would be reasonable for two people who are in love to make a solemn oblation for the well-being and satisfaction of their companion. Yet, Mr. Behrman made the crude decision to give up his own life, for an individual who he did not share strong relations with, causing a contrast within both stories.
In The Last Leaf, it mentions how Mr. Behrman was a rude man who was not typically liked by his neighbors and co-workers. Even so, Mr. Behrman decided to preserve Johnsy’s life, not only for Johnsy herself, but also for Sue, so that their friendship may last forever. Although he did not personally know Johnsy, he still gave up his existence for her sake. On the other hand, being a couple, Jim and Della are connected to each other and are obliged to make sacrifices.
Also, during the climax of both stories, I noticed a small variance. At the end of The Gift of the Magi, even though Jim and Della learned that their love was eternal, when thinking practically, the sacrifices that Jim and Della made were unsuccessful as Jim sold his valuable, golden watch and Della cut her luxurious,silky hair. Therefore, both gifts that the couple had gained by making their sacrifices, turned out to be useless at that specific time.
Whereas, in The Last Leaf Mr. Behrman’s sacrifice for Johnsy was truly sublime and successful, for it gave Johnsy a grasp on life, and it bandaged together a tearing friendship.In conclusion, though both stories may have their similarities and differences, O. Henry takes the reader to a deeper level by teaching us life-changing stories, which may have a jurassic effect in each of our lives. The more we give and the more we sacrifice, then greater is the reward we obtain from the Almighty God, who showers us with blessing at all times.
Mahatma Gandhi once said,” A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.” After all, your greatness lies in what you give and not in what you get. Therefore, like O.
Henry’s stories portray, we should become better people who value others before ourselves, and think of giving to others, before getting what we want. ” Beyond all, the ones who give before receiving; such are the wisest. Everywhere they are the wisest. They are the magi.”