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Narrative Techniques in Short Stories The Necklace and The Gift of the Magi

Updated April 17, 2021
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Narrative Techniques in Short Stories The Necklace and The Gift of the Magi essay

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Short stories are a very good way of letting an author express a message and tell a story through a short span of time. “The Necklace” and “The Gift of the Magi” are very good examples of this. They use many effective literary terms and narrative techniques to do this. “The Necklace” is a story about Mathilde, which her actions in the story teaches a good lesson about greediness. When her husband comes home with an invitation to a wonderful party, Mathilde is ungrateful and does not want to go, due to her lack of the pricey things she has.

After persuading her husband to give her money to buy a nice dress, even though he was saving that money to be a rifle to go out with his friends, she is still unsatisfied because she does not have a fancy piece of jewelry to pair with it. Her husband suggests that she borrows one from her friend, in which she does but ends up losing it. Frantic of losing a friendship over her friend’s “expensive” necklace, she buys a very expensive necklace to make up for it. After many years of her life, she tries to pay the necklace off which makes her life way worse than it was before. When she runs into her friend many years later, her friend explains to her that her necklace was actually paste, and not actual diamonds.

The other story, “The Gift of the Magi” is about Della, who wants to buy her husband Jim a very meaningful and nice present for Christmas. Due to her lack of money, Della decided to sell her long, beautiful and admired hair for money to buy Jim a nice Christmas present, which was a nice gold chain for his fancy watch. At the end of the story, when they give each other their gifts, Della finds out that Jim sold his watch to buy her curlers for her hair. Once they realize what has happened, they decide to just spend Christmas together and not to worry about the presents. Both stories show many literary elements and narrative techniques that make the story better, but in the way that they are used, “The Necklace” is a more superior short story to “The Gift of the Magi.”

“The Necklace,” written by Guy de Maupassant is about Mathilde, whose husband brings home an invitation to a party for her. After displaying her ungratefulness by throwing the invitation on the table, she said that she would only go if she had a fancy dress and nice things to wear. After buying a nice dress with her husband’s saved money, she insists on having a nice piece of jewelry, in which her husband suggests borrowing a piece of jewelry from her friend. She found a necklace that she loved, and borrowed it for the party. She found out she lost the necklace and bought a very expensive one to return to her friend.

After she spent her whole life re-paying back the necklace, she found out at the end that her friend’s necklace was fake. This story showed a nice explanation of many literary terms and narrative techniques. These techniques and elements include situational irony, imagery and character foils, as well as details and diction. Situational irony is used a lot in “the Necklace.” When Mathilde meets her friend she borrowed the necklace from and explained what happened, her friends says “Oh, my poor Mathilde. But mine was only paste (Maupassant 204).”

This shows situational irony because we didn’t expect her to buy a real necklace to return to her friend, only to find out at the end that her friend’s original necklace was fake. It gave us a surprised feeling, because we never would have guessed that her friend’s necklace she let her borrow was fake and not real diamonds. Imagery is used a lot in this story as well. There was many details in the story that let us get a good idea of what things and people looked like. For example, when Mathilde was thinking about her dream house instead of her old and disgusting house she has now, the text explained “…she would dream of fashionable dinner parties, gleaming silverwear, of tapestries making the walk as alive with characters out of history, and strange birds in a fairyland forest (Maupassant 199).”

This showed a good example of imagery, because the readers could really picture Mathilde’s ideal house. Along with situational irony and imagery, there is also a good example of a character foil in the text. This specific character foil gave us a vision of Mathilde and her personality, verses her husband’s. She is very selfish and ungrateful, while her husband is pretty grateful for what he has. For instance, the text explains her reaction when her husband was nice enough to give her an invitation to a exquisite party. “…she scornfully tossed the invitation on the table, murmuring ‘What good is that to me?’ (Maupassant 199).”

This shows how she is ungrateful, yet her husband responds with an answer that shows how much he cares and wants her to have fun. He says “…you never get a chance to go out and this is a real affair. A wonderful one! (Maupassant 199).” This shows the real character foil between Mathilde and her husband, because he is showing how much he wants her to be happy, and how much he cares for her. Yet Mathilde responds in a very ungrateful and somewhat rude kind of way by ignoring the invitation and not wanting to go.

Diction was shown a lot throughout the story, when helps keep the reader interested and it sets the overall atmosphere of the story. They use many elegant and big words that help the readers feel the atmosphere of the story. The story was written around the 1880s, which explains the fancy words. As an example, “She grieved incessantly, feeling that she had been born for all the little necessities and luxuries of living (Maupassant 198).” This is showing how the certain choices of words can really make the reader feel as if they are in the story with the characters.

Another literary term that is used in the text to make it better is the details. It gives the audience information so we can clearly understand what is going on in the text, yet it doesn’t give away every single detail, like when we found out at the end that the necklace she borrowed was fake. The whole time we thought that the necklace was actually real, even though it was not. So that detail got left out to keep us in suspense, but there are many other details that were included to help us understand the story more. Throughout the story, we learn a lesson about greediness.

Mathilde was very greedy all throughout the story, as all she wanted was fancy clothes and nice things. She was not grateful to be able to go to the party, even though her husband thought it would be a great idea. At the end of the story, she faces some harsh consequences. In “the Necklace,” there was a good display of narrative techniques and literary elements, such as diction, details, character foils, imagery, and situational irony.

The Gift of the Magi written by O. Henry is a story about two lovers who are in need of getting each other a good present, even though they are very short on money. Della, the wife, is determined to get her husband, Jim, a good present. Being known for her luxurious hair, she sold it and made 20 dollars to go towards her husband’s Christmas present. At the end of the story, we find out how not only did Della sell her hair to buy her husband a watch chain, but her husband sold his watch to buy her some good curlers for her hair.

Throughout the story, we see many examples of situational irony and mood, as well as sentence structure and diction. At the end of the story when we find out that the significant others sold their most prized possessions to get the other something good. It shows a lot of situational irony because we never expected that to happen. When Jim reveals to Della that he sold his watch to get her combs by saying “…I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs (Henry 121),” it was us really surprised because it was such a coincidence that it happened. Mood is also showed a lot throughout the story.

The story gives off a romantic and loving mood. For example, “He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction (Henry 120).” The story has a very romantic feeling, and when the couple hugs it really emphasizes that message. Regarding the resources of language, sentence structure and diction were used very well throughout the story. The use of words that Henry chose to use kept the audience intrigued and it set the overall atmosphere. On page 119, it says “When Della reached home her intoxication have way to little prudence and reason.”

Using the word “prudence,” makes the reader have to pay attention to the story and what is happening, because of the author using more technical words. Sentence structure is very prevalent throughout the story as well. The sentence structure in this story helps us clearly understand the plot and doesn’t make the text seem boring. There was a lot of dialogue and short and easy to understand sentences.

For example, when the hairdresser and Della were having a conversation, the sentence structure made it very easy for us to understand who was talking and what was going on. “ ‘Will you buy my hair?’ asked Della. ‘I buy hair,’ said Madame. ‘Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.’ Down rippled the brown cascade (Henry 118).” This form of sentence structure helped us clearly understand this conversation between Della and the hairdresser. Mood, situational irony, sentence structure and diction were used a lot and very well throughout the “Gift of the Magi”.

After reading the two short stories “The Necklace,” and “The Gift of the Magi,” and analyzing the elements that make it the short story that it is, “The Necklace” shows a better display of them. Situational irony is used a lot in both stories. And although they both use them well, “The Necklace” displays it in a better way. At the end of both stories, we see a good example of situational irony. In “The Necklace,” at the end of the story, we find out that the necklace that she bought to give back her friend was real, even though the one that she originally borrowed was fake. This shows a good example of situational irony, because we never expected the amazing necklace that she borrowed from her friend to be fake. There was no signs of it, and we never would have guessed.

At the end when her friend says “Oh, my poor Mathilde. But mine was only paste!(Maupassant 204)” This made the readers feel really surprised because we never could have expected it. In “The Gift of the Magi,” it shows situational irony as well, but it is not as good because it probably was not as surprising to the reader. At the end of the story we find out that the significant others sold their number one possessions to buy the other one a nice gift, despite their lack of money. “The Necklace,” shows this better because, again, there was no evidence or signs that the original necklace that Mathilde borrowed from her friend was fake. Imagery, character foil and details were also used in “The Necklace” very well and it helped make the story better in many different ways.

Imagery is used well in the story. As an example, on page “…she would dream of fashionable dinner parties, gleaming silverware, of tapestries making the walls live with characters out of a history and strange birds in a fairyland forest (Maupassant 199).” This helps us get a good vision of what Mathilde’s dream house looks like, which makes the story more interesting to the reader because they can get a good and vivid image in their head to imagine while they are reading. A big character foil is shown throughout the story, as Mathilde and her husband are very different from each other.

We can clearly see this in the example on page 199 when Della receives the invitation to the party from her husband. “…she scornfully tossed the invitation on the table, murmuring ‘What good is that to me?’” to which her husband responds by saying “…you never get a chance to go out, and this is a real affair, wonderful one! (Maupassant 199)” This shows a big character foil, because Mathilde shows how she is is so ungrateful to get an invitation to a party, even though she never goes out, while on the other hand, her husband is really excited to go the party, no matter how fancy it is.

Lastly, “The Necklace,” shows a good example of details. In this story, details are shown in both ways of being included and excluded. In the ways of being included, the author decided to give specific details about Mathilde and her husband’s issues with having to pay off the necklace. “Each month notes had to be paid, and others renewed to give more time (Maupassant 2014).” Meanwhile, details like the original necklace being fake were left out. At the end of the story when her friend says “Oh, my poor Mathilde. But mine was only paste! (Maupassant 204).”

The details of the necklace being paste, and not actual diamonds were left out. These elements were used throughout the story, making the story more interesting and surprising to read. Mood was used throughout “The Gift of the Magi,” because it gave off a very romantic feel between Della and her husband Jim. A really good example of mood is shown on page 120, when it says “He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction (Henry 120).”

This shows how the story has a romantic mood, as the couples show how much they love each other by hugging each other and how they sold their possessions to buy the other one a nice gift. Sentence structure also played a big part in making the story how it is. It helps us clearly understand the story, yet it does not make it boring. When Della went to go sell her hair for money to buy her husband his watch chain, it was easy to understand what was happening. “‘Will you buy my hair?’ asked Della. ‘I buy hair,’ said Madame. ‘Take yer hat off and lets have a sight of the looks of it.’ Down rippled the brown cascade (Henry 118).”

Diction was used in the story as well. “When Della reached holme her intoxication gave way to little prudence and reason (Henry 119).” Diction was used in this story to help make the reader more interested, and it also sets the atmosphere as a whole. Although both of these stories used many literary and narrative techniques, “the Necklace” used them in a way that made the story more superior to “The Gift of the Magi.”

Due to the techniques Maupassant used in “The Necklace,” it makes the story superior to “The Gift of the Magi.” Narrative techniques used in “The Necklace” like details, situational irony, imagery and character foils are effective ways to make and keep the reader engaged in the story. While “The Gift of the Magi” showed literary elements and techniques such as situational irony, mood, sentence structure and diction, it just was not as effective as the techniques in “The Necklace.”

There are certain elements that an author needs to include in their story to keep the reader engaged and to have the reading be enjoyable for them. If a story does not have compelling techniques to keep the reader engaged, they will become quite bored and the story will not have a good, lasting impact of them.

Narrative Techniques in Short Stories The Necklace and The Gift of the Magi essay

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Narrative Techniques in Short Stories The Necklace and The Gift of the Magi. (2021, Apr 17). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/narrative-techniques-in-short-stories-the-necklace-and-the-gift-of-the-magi/

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