Lesson 3 Love: Reading Short Stories

O- Henry's "The Gifts of the Magi"

Pre-reading question:

1) The Biblical allusion to the magi in the title is explained at the end of the story. What are the two other Biblical allusions in the tale.
2) Look up the following vocabulary words before you read so that you have an idea of their meaning before you start. (If you are reading the Project Gutenberg on-line version of the story, most of these words are already linked to Merriam-Webster's on-line dictionary): imputation, parsimony, mendicancy, vestibule, longitudinal, depreciate, fob, meretricious, truant, patent, ardent,
3) What does Henry mean by "a Coney Island chorus girl"?
4) What kind of diction does Henry use when he's narrating? Why do you think he made this choice?
5) What does the metaphor "immovable as a setter at the scent of quail" mean?

Post-reading questions:

1) Some critics argue that this is not a short story, but merely an anecdote. What do you think?
2) What is the author's tone? What do you imagine his feelings are for Jim and Della?
3) Henry makes us feel some emotion at the end of the story. Do you think he's overly sentimental or underscoring his point.
4) What is his theme?
5) There are a few symbols in the story. List a few and note how they add to the shape of the story.

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