Culture in A Passage to India E. M. Forster


The concept of culture can be used in different ways. Having several meanings and connotations, it has become the broadest term.

‘Culture’ refers to all those activities and values on which the building of some society is placed. It also covers the intellectual and artistic activities and products of the society. According to some anthropologists, it can be used to describe the best activities and products in the society.

The members of some community share their own feelings, emotions and beliefs with each other under the specifications of certain culture. It also conveys the expressions how people make behaviors, responses and reactions to each other. There are systems or patterns of values, symbols, ritual myths, and practices that are included in culture. It is famous that culture includes norms, values, language, religion, attitude, behavior and social practices. Culture is made through the unification of all those mentioned elements. This world is based on different cultures, but the most prominent cultures are the Western and Eastern in all over the world.

The English and The Indians present their own cultures through their certain actions, norms, beliefs and values. Forster’s ‘A Passage to India’ presents two main cultures; the western and the eastern. But the Eastern is further divided into two cultures; Hinduism and Islam. This research is going to depict the colonial constructions of power belonging to the English, the Hindu and the Muslim cultures.


Being the English colony, India was the embodiment of three different cultures; English, Hinduism and Islam. Forster depicts these differences in an appropriate way in his novel. In the second chapter of the novel, when Dr. Aziz goes for dinner at Hamidullah’s home, there is a discussion on the cultural differences across the Anglo-Indians;

No, that is where Mrs. Turton is so skillful. When we poor blacks take bribes, we perform what we are bribed to perform, and the law discovers us in consequence. The English take and do nothing. I admire them (Forster 1924: 34)

Mrs. Turton was bribed by some Raja when she was selected as an inspector for canal scheme. Some people gave her a sewing machine in solid gold so that the water should run through their states. Actually bribery is a social crime due to which several problems get birth. Mrs. Turton was much bribed due to her social status. It is considered unlawful act in Islam. Dr. Aziz talks to Hamidullah that the act of bribery is legitimate near the Christians.

First of all, the Muslims run away from the approaching this social evil. If some Indians or black people have to bribe at the performance of some act, they are charged as black sheep in the whole society. On the other hand they have to face their music. There is no law for the English people at some bribery act. The Englishmen take it as a gift or reward, while the black race is punished very severely on this foul work. Dr. Aziz says that it is the main point to present the admiration of the western people.

Indian culture is recognized through its inhabitants’ customs, values and beliefs. Indian people always spend their leisure in taking hookah and pan. These are the best source to spend the spare time in gossips. In the second chapter Dr. Aziz utters,

If my teeth are to be cleaned, I don’t go at all. I am Indian, it is and Indian habit to take pan (Forster 1924: 38)

Dr. Aziz and Hamidullah were going to start dinner but they were interrupted by some letter from Major Callendar. Actually it was a summon Aziz to come urgently. In the very beginning, Dr. Aziz refuses to visit the civil surgeon. But Hamidullah insisted not to have a refusal. Dr. Aziz is also advised that he should clean up his teeth.

In these given lines, two particular things are mentioned regarding Dr. Aziz’s character. If Dr. Aziz engages himself in cleaning his teeth he will be late. So it shows his punctuality regarding his duties and responsibilities. Second thing is to be proud in having Indian identity. He thinks that it is an Indian habit to take pan. Hence, he needs not to clean his teeth. Hamidullah realizes Dr. Aziz’s punctuality and his cultural arrogance after having some discussion. In the same chapter, Forster further throws light on the Western and the Hindu culture.

One night, over in the Club, the English community contributed an amateur orchestra. Elsewhere some Hindus were drumming-he knew they were Hindus, because the rhythm was uncongenial to him-and others were bewailing a corpse (Forster 1924: 41).

These lines are the presentations of comparison of two cultures. When Dr. Aziz is summoned by Major Callendar and he found no message for him, he went to Mosque. All the English class was busy in doing a play ‘Cousin Kate’ at the club. Dr. Aziz heard an artistic music from the side of club. The English class was enjoying its high status in the India.

Dr. Aziz recognized the Western culture through its presentations. Music is considered fair and accepted action in the Christianity. The Westerns call music the diet for soul. On the other hand Dr. Aziz also heard the beat of drum sitting in the Mosque. He recognized it that these sounds were produced by Hindu culture the rhythm of the drumming was unpleasant and mental torture for Aziz. Dr. Aziz did not like it because it was foul and unlawful act in Islam.

There has been a great religious dispute among the Hindus and the Muslims, in India. Some people were busy in mourning at the corpse. It is also the symbol of Hindu culture. The writer could use here the word ‘mourning’ but he used ‘bewailing’ to emphasize the Hindus feelings at a particular situation.

Culture in A Passage to India
A Passage to India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Colonialism in A Passage to India E. M. Forster

Colonialism in A Passage to India E. M. Forster
English: Map of the British Indian Empire from Imperial Gazetteer of India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The way to control of other people’s land and goods is colonialism, colonialism is not only the expansion of modern European trend, but it was flourished by the Roman Empire from Armenia to the Atlantic in the second century. Genghis Khan conquered the Middle East including China. In the fifteenth century, southern India came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, and known as a minor Islamic civilization.

During and after colonialism, India has been the state of different nations having different religions, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity and several other religions but there are two main religions in India: Islam and Hinduism and these two nations have been hostile to each other in every field of life. They have different beliefs and interests. Approaching the month of Mohurram, the Muslims cut the branches off of a certain tree of peepul. The tree of peepul is considered as a sacred tree in Hinduism. It was considered a religious riot at which they fought with each other during colonialism.

India has been the state of different nations having different religions, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity and several other religions. But there are two main religions in India: Islam and Hinduism. These two nations have been hostile to each other in every field of life. They have different beliefs and interests. Approaching the month of Mohurram, the Muslims cut the branches off of a certain tree of peepul. The tree of peepul is considered as a sacred tree in Hinduism. It was considered a religious riot at which they fought with each other in colonialism.

Forster sketches this scene in this way,

But Ronny had not disliked his day, for it proved that the British colonialism was necessary to India, there would certainly have been bloodshed without them. His voice grew complacent again; he was here not to be pleasant but to keep the peace (1924: 110).

The very first line of this extract is based on double negative structure. When such type of structure is used, the speaker’s main aim is to emphasize the point. These lines were uttered by Ronny to Miss Quested after the occurrence of accident. Ronny was so much interested in having the authorities like a ‘pukka sahib’. According to Ronny, the India was controlled by the Britain to keep peace not to please its inhabitants. Ronny was fully in the favor of the British Raj. It is an ironical statement; actually they came in India for the expansion of their trade. Apparently they were admirers of the Indians, but inwardly they were the followers of the racial and class differences.

In chapter 9, Forster further depicts India as a British colony,

Is it fair an Englishman should occupy one when Indians are available?… England holds India for her good (1924: 124).

Miss Quested was much interested to meet the Indians, it was her intimately wish. Mr. Turton held a Bridge Party to meet the keen desire of Miss Quested. At this party, all the Indians were invited. But Dr. Aziz did not take part in that very party. He spent the day at his home in the reminiscent of his wife’s anniversary. He also fell ill; his friends visited him to seek his dispositions. There was a talk run among the companions.

Dr. Aziz asked Mr. Fielding about the British raj (colonialism) why you have found a single patch like India to rule harshly. Fielding told him that he was not personally intended to rule in India. But Fielding needed a job for his survival. There is also racial problem in these lines. Dr. Aziz asks Fielding why the Englishman consider their right to rule over the Indians. Indians were considered very inferior class and race in social, economical and political perspective. Fielding responded to Dr. Aziz that England controlled and ruled India for her own betterment because India had been famous for its treasures in all over the world.


Actually discourse is used as a synonym of conversation, or a serious discussion or examination of a learned topic. Colonial discourse is basically the discussion or conversation which held in the political colonies. Loomba quotes Frantz Fanon’s view of colonial discourse, it is an expansion of the literary and communicative efforts in colonial perspective (1998:46). But Focault declares that colonial discourse presents the power and social structure in the daily talks (Loomba 1998:50). The Britain used several discourses in their daily lives to keep up their ruling status.

There is a talk between Ronny and Mrs. Moore in the fifth chapter,

We are not out here for the purpose of behaving pleasantly! What do you mean?” What I say, we’re the peace. Them’s my sentiments. India is not a drawing-room. Your sentiments are those of a god,’ she said quietly… ‘India likes gods’. ‘And Englishman like posing as gods’ (Forster 1924: 69).

Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested were not satisfied with the Englishmen as they were severely treating the Indians. They condemned Ronny on his harshly behavior towards the Indians. He said that the Britain was trained to adopt the severe attitude. If the ruling class takes the leniency towards the subjects, the subjects will exploit the rules and regulations. According to the English, they are superior to the other nations.

The usage of first person pronoun in plural form ‘We’, shows the subjectivity and the sublimity of the English race. Ronny says that India is a place where the people like the gods and those gods can merely be made and introduced by the Englishmen. If the founders and producers of gods are the Englishmen, the Indians will have to follow their motives and interests. Ronny considers his nation very religious and virtuous.

‘India is not a drawing room’ presents the image of mistreatment and exploitation in the Indian public. The drawing-room is the place to present the peace and calm. According to Ronny himself, it was Britishers’s worthiness to expose their own rest on the behalf of the Indian’s peace. ‘India likes gods’; here India is used as a synecdoche to represent the society. On the other hand the word ‘Englishmen’ is used instead of England. It is a binary structure. According to Foucault, power spreads from top to toe. Power has its own hierarchy for its distribution (Loomba 1998:50).

By: M. Zaman Ali

Bacon as a prose stylist

Bacon’s Style

In fact, the secret of Bacon’s style strength lies in its brevity. Virtually no writer, ancient or modern, has managed to compress so much in so little meaning compass, various tests, such as “studies and negotiations” – are marvels of condensation Perhaps the most. Bacon’s style is fascinating that no one can remain indifferent. In other words, as a prose writer is passionate admirers or detractors. It is interesting to note that these two extremes are caused by the same style properties. Bacon, inaugurated the modern era of English prose. FG Selby says,

“Part of the influence of Bacon is obviously the charm of his style”

“The quality of the force in the style of bacon is intellectual rather than emotional”

To be sure there is a marked difference in the style of his earlier trials and his family later. But the important fact is that the difference is one of the approach and not a technology. Test Bacon originally thought to be anything but a newspaper “dispersed meditations.” Therefore, the previous tests are rare and lapidary scrawl of his remarks on domestic issues, political, intellectual, moral, religious and social. Consequently, the informed reader can see that these tests are only skeletons of thought grouped around a single theme. “On education” in this category. In this essay, we see that Bacon is a quick and chatty writing — almost as if speaking to himself:

“Men despise Crafty studies, simple men admire them, and wise-use”

Allusions In Bacon’s Style

It should be noted that the aphoristic nature of the dictionaries can be found in his essays later. The difference is that, over time, Bacon, tongs tonic-strong rhythm of his sentences. This is because; he realized that his rapidly growing readership consists of people with tastes and reading skills. We compare the pace of the above lines of that rite of passage into “difficulties”, which is one of his later essays:

“We see in needle works and embroideries, it is more pleasing to have a lively work upon sad, solemn ground, than to have a dark and melancholy work upon a lightsome ground”

The brilliant rhetoric is the same in both passages. So it is concise and succinct vigor. Although Bacon’s penchant for juxtaposition of thesis and antithesis is seen in both cases. The main difference is that the first pass, it is designed so that Dean Church was moved to say that the words “

“… Down likes a hammer …”

By contrast, the second passage flows more smoothly, like a melody at once. In its early days, Bacon made his concise style ignoring superfluous adjectives, conjunctions and connectors. Later, aims to craft balanced sentences, consisting of two parts. The first part is a declaration and the second is an explanatory analogy. For example:

“He that hath wife and child hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises either of virtue or mischief”

Bacon phrases are modern in structure than the other Elizabethan prose being sharper and less involved. Even in its more complex sentences are built with such care and inversions in a free way that is not hard to catch. Essays, in particular, are significant, and the balance point, of course, cannot wait for their aphoristic style. This is really strange when you consider that he also wrote sentences like this:

“A lie faces God and shrinks from man”

Or this

“The ways to enrich are many, and most of them foul”

It ‘true that the cavalier attitude of the grammar is clearly visible in the second sentence. But most people would agree that they have no problem understanding what the writer has to say. It should be noted that the age of Bacon, little attention was paid to the logical division of the subject to pieces. One of the pleasurable aspects of Bacon’s style is to use his images and, as a result. Consider the termination of his pride, “self-righteousness”:

“The fly sat upon the axle-tree of the chariot wheel said,
what a dust do I raise?”

Two Bacon’s Style As Conclusion:

The above analysis shows that Bacon had two styles of writing. Rather, you can say it was the same style, which has applied in different ways, if the situation demanded. Surely this is just one of the reasons why his admirers claim to be one of the greatest prose stylists in English.

Parts of Speech

Parts Of Speech

“Parts of speech” are the basic types of words that English has. Most grammar books say that there are eight parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections. We will add one more type: determiners/articles. In the modern era POS are known as “word classes”.

1. Noun

“A word which shows the name of some person, place, thing, condition etc.”.

For Example;

  • John bought a pen from New York.
  • There is a political disturbance in Libya.

Types Of Nouns

  • Common Noun, e.g. Cat, Chair, Book
  • Proper Noun, e.g. Qatar, China, Libya
  • Abstract Noun, e.g. Beauty, Love, Honesty
  • Collective Noun, e.g. Army, Class, Company
  • Concrete Noun, e.g. Book, Pencil, Gate
  • Countable Noun, e.g. Cap, Shirt, Bag
  • Uncountable Noun, e.g. Milk, Water, Air

Functions of Noun

  • Nominative: John goes to school (Noun and pronoun as subject)
  • Vocative: John, where are you going?
  • Accusative: Where is John?
  • Genitive: This is John’s book.
  • Dative: John gave me his book.


  • Feminine, An actress was standing near the mare.
  • Masculine, John saw a lion.
  • Neuter, Bicycle was hit by a truck.
  • Plurals

2. Pronoun

A word that is used instead of noun is called pronoun e.g. Personal pronoun, Reflexive Pronoun, Relative Pronoun, Demonstrative Pronoun

  • Personal: He is playing. (She, It, You, They etc.)
  • Reflexive: You will hurt yourself. (myself, itself)
  • Relative: I met Ali who had just returned.
  • Demonstrative: Each of the boys gets a prize.

3. Verb

A verb is the name of some action, state done by the subject or completes the meaning of the subject.

  • Faustus goes to University.
  • Faustus felt Hungry.

Kinds of Verb

Lexical Verb:

Lexical verb is a word one of the parts of speech, it conveys the complete meanings after the subject. It can stand without the auxiliaries or modals e.g. eat, drink, go, come etc. There are two kinds of lexical verbs.

  • Transitive: I Kick the ball.
  • Intransitive: I fall.

Auxiliary Verb:

Auxiliary verbs are also known as helping verbs but they cannot stand in the sentence without the lexical verbs. There are three types of auxiliaries.

  • Principal Auxiliaries: To be, to have, to do.
  • Modal Auxiliaries: can, may, must, will, ought
  • Semi-Modal: To need, to dare, used

4. Adjective

A word which qualifies the noun to show its quality, quantity, etc. is called Adjective.

Kinds of Adjective:

  • Demonstrative
  • Distributive
  • Quantitative
  • Interrogative
  • Possessive
  • Of Quality

Position of Adjective

  • Attributive; a type of adjective which comes with the noun e.g. Happy Faustus, Naughty Girl
  • Predicative; an adjective which comes after the verb to show the quality of the noun e.g. The farmer is small.

5. Adverb

An adverb is a word which modifies the meaning of a verb, an adjective or an other adverb.

  • This is a very sweet mango.
  • He comes here daily.

Kinds of Adverb

  • Manner (which shows how or in what manner) e.g. The boy works hard.
  • Time (Which Shows when) e.g. He came here Yesterday.
  • Place ( Which Shows where) e.g. He came out Yesterday.
  • Frequency (which shows How often) e.g. He always tries to do his best.
  • Degree (which shows how much or in what degree) e.g. You are quite wrong.
  • Interrogative (which enquires) e.g. Why was he late?

Formation of Adverb

Many adverbs of manner and some adverbs of degree are formed by adding ‘ly’ to the corresponding. For example

Position of Adverb

  • Adverbs of manner, which answer the question “how”? Are generally placed after the verb or after the object e.g. It is Rainy Heavily. The Ship is going slowly.
  • Adverbs or adverb phrases of place and of time are usually placed after the verb or after the object e.g. I met him yesterday.
  • When there are two are more adverbs after a verb, the normal order is MPT e.g. She should go there tomorrow evening.
  • If the verb is ‘Am’/ ‘Are’/ ‘is’/ ‘was’/ ‘were’/ , adverbs are placed after the verb; as

–He is always at home on Sunday.

–We are just off.

6. Preposition

A preposition is a word placed before a noun or a pronoun to show in what relation the person or thing denoted by its stands in regard to something else. For Example

–Faustus is fond of magic.

–There is a cow in the field.

Kinds of Preposition

There are three kinds of preposition

Simple: At, by, for, from, on, out, in etc.

–My book is in my bag.

Compound: These are generally formed by prefixing a preposition ( Usually a=no or be=by) For Example

Across, Around, before, behind

–I came the day before yesterday.

Kinds of Preposition

Phrase: A group a words which complete with more than two words or syllables. For Example

According to, In place of, in spite of, instead of, in order to etc.

According to Aristotle, tragedy cannot be completed in spite of catharsis.

7. Conjunction

A conjunction is a word which merely joins together sentences, clauses, and some times words. There are two types of conjunction

  •  Coordinating Conjunctions:

A coordinating conjunction joins together clauses of equal rank e.g. and, but, both…and, or, either…or, neither…nor, not only…but also

Both men and women were laughing at me but I was looking at their ice cream.

  • Subordinating Conjunction:

A subordinating conjunction joins a clause to another on which it depends for its full meanings e.g. if, that, though/although, unless, when, ete.

–Faustus will serve you, if you give him respect.

When it is wet the buses are crowded.

8. Interjection

An interjection is a word which expresses sudden feelings or emotions e.g. Alas!, Hurrah!, Bravo!, What!, etc.

Hurrah! We won the match.

Alas! He is dead.

9. Determiners

  • Determiners are uses at the beginning of noun, phrases, e.g. I met the two Pakistani girls in London.
  • You use specific determiner when people know exactly which things or people you are talking about e.g.

–The began to run toward the boy.

–Her face was red.

  • You use general determiners to talk about people or things without saying exactly who or what they are e.g. There was a man in the lift.

Specific Determiners:

  •  The definite article: the
  • Demonstrative: this, that, these, those
  • Possessive: my, your, his, her, its, our, their

General Determiners:

  •  Countable: All, any, an, few other
  • Uncountable: Enough, much, less


By: M. Zaman Ali

Style Given By O’Henry in “The Last Leaf”

The Last Leaf Summary

‘The last leaf’ consists of four human characters; JOHNSY, SUE, DOCTOR and BEHRMAN, and a non-living character Mr. Pneumonia. Johnsy and Sue are roommates. Johnsy falls ill and she binds herself with such a fancy that she well die with the fallen of last ivy leaf. But Sue, the very optimist, consults the painter, Behrman, to paint an ivy leaf against the wall. Behrman paints such a leaf which is clinging to its stem against the wall. At last, Johnsy recovers her health. But Behrman dies of pneumonia in the hospital.

 The Last Leaf STYLE

  In style, the main focus is on the manners which are used by the writers in his work. Critics have to deal with the dialogues, vocabulary, metaphorical diction, syntax, kinds of imagery and kind of subject matter which is used by the writer.


            A variety of Figurative or metaphorical language in which things or ideas are treated as if they were human beings, with human attributes and feelings is called Personification. In the very first line of this story “the Last Leaf”, streets are personified by the writer but there streets symbolize human passions and relationships.

“The streets run crazy and broken themselves into small strips called ‘places’.”

 Pneumonia is a serious kind of disease and may become the cause of death. Johnsy falls ill due to the prey of pneumonia. While Behrman dies of it.

 “Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman.”


 The usage of dialogues is frequently existed in this story. Dialogues always occur between the two people who talk face to face. The mostly action of this story proceeds with the dialogues of Johnsy and Sue.

 “Try to sleep,” said Sue, I must call Behrman.”

                        “What is it, dear?” asked Sue.”

                        “Tell me as soon as you have finished,” said Johnsy


 These deal with the relatedness of one thing to other with direct or indirect reference. Simile is the relatedness by ‘as’ or ‘like’. But metaphor is direct relation of one thing to the other on the behalf of some quality. For example,

                       “Johnsy was lying white and still as a fallen statue.”

“Behrman had a Michael Angelo’s Moses beard curling down from the head of a satyr along the body of an imp.”


It is a technique used by O’ Henry to explain things through contrast and comparison. It is based on the quality or quantity of something. Art and literature are very close to each other but the writer compares them on the level of their functions. He pleads,

“Young artists must pave their way to art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to literature.”


This story also does have the devices of symbolism and imagery. Leaf deals with life, nutrition and growth as well. The symbol of shoes and icy cold is also used in this story. Shoes are the symbol of oppression, tyranny and death as well. The writer uses this symbol to show the death of Mr. Behrman.

            “His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold.”

 Imagery is also very close to symbolism but it appeals to senses and feelings. There is a lot of color imagery in this story.

            “I have something to tell you, white mouse.”

 The image of white mouse is used for Johnsy because she recovers her health now. The white color presents innocence and purity.

 “Johnsy was contentedly knitting a very blue and very useless woolen shoulder scarf.”

             “Old Behrman, with his red eyes…”



 The system of this universe is based on two opposite things i.e. day and night, black and white, good and bad, hope and frustration etc. ‘The Last Leaf’ is very symbolic story which conveys the theme of Pessimism and Optimism. Pessimism deals with the darken aspects of life. As optimism is totally against to pessimism, it deals with the positive ways of life. It also can be said that optimism and pessimism are the two sides of a single coin. Johnsy always leads her life as a pessimist. Sue consoles Johnsy and she consults a painter to paint the fancy of Johnsy in an optimist way.

           “When the last one falls I must go, too.” –P

           “She was looking out the window and counting-counting backward.” –P

            “It is a sin to want to die.” –O


Hope is also one of the major themes in ‘The Last Leaf’. The system of this universe is running at the idea of hope. We dream for future life due to hope. For example, if an old man is seriously ill still he is dreaming for his recovery because of hope. He does not think about the black or fatal bird. The significance of the leaf is life and nurture. Leaf is the hope of life for tree or plant. When Johnsy sees the painted leaf against the wall through the window then she says,

“Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me a how wicked I was. It is a sin to want to die.”

 The Doctor said to Sue, “She’s out of danger. You’ve won.”


The title of this story conveys the theme of death. Last means very close to death or closely to be end. The life or growth of the tree or plant may be guessed through its branches and the condition of leaves. There were almost a hundred leaves clinging with the stem but they were falling due to autumn season. Autumn is the mortal season for leaves. At the same time Johnsy fell ill due to Pneumonia. Pneumonia is the symbol of death for human being and old Behrman dies of it.

 “When the last one falls I must go, too.”

            “Mr. Behrman died of Pneumonia today in the hospital.


“The last leaf” shows the theme of friendship and sacrifice. Friendship is such a relationship that is completed with the ties of sacrifice, sincerity, love, loyalties etc. Sue is friend of Johnsy and she progresses this relation through sacrifices.

Said Sue, “Will you promise me to keep your eyes close, and not looked out the window until I am done working?”


“It was beautiful and simple as all truly great swindles are.”

After the whole discussion, we can say that ‘The Last Leaf’ is also after “The Gift of The Magi” O’ Henry’s masterpiece. ‘The Gift of the Magi’ held so much popularity that many writers wrote OPERAS and many singers sang that OPERAS. These short stories are derived from the life of the ordinary people in New York City. O’ Henry uses twist plot in his stories, which turn on ironic or coincidental circumstance. Although some critics are not so enthusiastic about his work yet the public loves it. The Last Leaf Study Guide By M Zaman Ali.

The Last Leaf William James
William James (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Style Given By O’Henry in “The Gift of The Magi”

The Gift of The Magi  Summary

Inroduction: William Sydney porter was an American short story writer. He acquired the pseudonym from a warder called Orrin Henry. Henry published ten collections and over 600 short stories during his life time. He worked as a reporter and a columnist in a local news paper agency.

‘The gift of the Magi’ is a short story of Della and James; husband and wife. They were living in a rental flat. They were so much sincere, faithful and loyal to each other, they sold their possessions to celebrate their Christmas. They are included in the list of the Magi. Magi were the wisest people who presented gifts to the Christ.

 Style used in The Gift of the Magi:


 Irony is a kind of device which is used in literature to increase the value of the work. Irony consists of saying one thing while you mean another. There are several kinds of Irony in the literature. But this story deals with the situational Irony. When their gifts become useless for themselves, it creates the situational Irony. Because gifts are presented by the wisest these gifts are useful and beneficial for the receivers.

 “I could not have lived through Christmas without giving you a present”

“Being wise, their gifts no doubt wise ones… two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other”


 In writing or speaking ‘HUMOUR’ can mean ‘MOOD’ or ‘CHARACTER’ but the word also denotes ‘that which causes laughter.’ In the very beginning of this story, the way how THE DILLINGHAMS were spending their lives was pathetic and humorous as well.

“There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it…”


 A symbol is something which represents something else (often an idea or quality) analogy or association. The Dillingham were so poor that they were living in miserable condition. Their misery is symbolized through this sentence.

 “… and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard”

 Color imagery also exists in this short story.

 “She turned white for just a moment.”


 O’ Henry uses a colorful comparison in a mastery way to attract his readers. He describes the beauty of his heroine in a splendid comparison. Comparison is a device which shoes the value of something than other on the basis of quality.

 “Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds”

 “Being wise, their gifts no doubt wise ones… two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other”


 A figure of speech usually used in prose and verse. Similes always contain the words ‘like’ or ‘as’. Here the writer uses simile of cascade for the beauty of Della’s hair.

“Della’s beautiful hair fell like a cascade of brown water.”

After cutting her hair off Della was looking like a schoolboy.

“That made her looks like a truant schoolboy.”


Allusion is a historical or Biblical reference. The main motive of the usage of allusion is to relate the present events and characters with the previous incidents and persons and to enhance the attraction knowledge of the readers.

“Had the question of Sheba lived in the flat across the Airshaft?”

“Had King Solomon been the Janitor?”

 “The Magi – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger.”


 It means the repetition of phrases and clauses again and again. It shows character’s physical or psychological condition in the story.

“One dollar and eighty seven cents.”

“Like a Cascade of brown waters.”


 O’ Henry often uses third person to evaluate or narrate this story. Omniscient means a story-teller with total, God like knowledge of the characters and their actions.

“She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.”

“He looked thin and very serious.”

Themes in The Gift of The Magi:

 Theme means the central idea of some work which may explicit or not. A single work may have several themes.


 Love means the attraction between two persons or entities there are two kinds of Love in this universe, mortal and immortal Love or worldly or spiritual Love. Love is an abstract noun but it can be materialized through the presentation of gifts. The presentation of gifts in friendship increases he passion of Love. This is the story of two Lovers, husband & wife. They have to celebrate their Christmas ceremony through giving and receiving the gifts to each other. Della sells her beautiful hair to present a gift to Jim.

As Jim also buy a wondrous gift for Della.

“Maybe the hairs of my head were number of.”

“But nobody could ever count My Love for You.”

“I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs.


Sacrifice is one of the major themes of “the gift of the Magi”

Both gift and sacrifice are the expression of Love. Gifts are presented in the shape of objects and things as well as the devotion of the physical efforts. However, the devotion of physical efforts through the depth of heart shows the purity of Love. Della and James sacrifice for each other.

Della says,

“I had my hair cut off and sold because I could not have lived through Christmas with out giving you a presents.”

            “I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs.”


Poverty is also discussed in this short story. ‘The Dillingham’ were so poor and leading a miserable life. Della was very contended and faithful wife. She used to save money on daily basis. The writer also tells us their expenses were high than their income.

 “Expenses had been greater than she had calculated”

 That’s why they sold their possessions to presents the gifts to each other.


After the whole discussion, we can say that ‘The Gift of the Magi’ is O’ Henry’s masterpiece. ‘The Gift of the Magi’ held so much popularity that many writers wrote OPERAS and many singers sang that OPERAS. These short stories are derived from the life of the ordinary people in New York City. O’ Henry uses twist plot in his stories, which turn on ironic or coincidental circumstance. Although some critics are not so enthusiastic about his work yet the public loves it. The Gift of The Magi Study Guide By M Zaman Ali.