Themes of Consumerism, Commodity Fetishism and Commodification in O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’

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Marxist philosophy believes that society views the world by way of a purely financial lens. Marxism dictates that society is separated into two classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The bourgeoisie makes use of ideology to suppress the proletariat in the major with the useful resource of manipulating their perceptions of their free agency. One ideology that the greater type perpetuates onto the working class is consumerism. Consumerism is the faith that the notable objects that one acquires can beautify one’s worth. As Marxists consider all ideologies, consumerism is an unconscious trust that is so deeply entrenched in society that it influences the picks that every and each human being makes. This creed creates the thought of commodity fetishism, which describes how humans in a capitalist society as a result begin to deal with commodities as if price is inhered in the objects themselves, however than in the quantity of real labor expended to produce the object. By reducing the human experience to the pursuit of financial prosperity, the concept of commodification used to be created. Commodification goes the larger step of decreasing a person’s cost to their financial value. These three requirements together have the electricity to dismantle nature’s purest thoughts, such as love. O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’ suggests how consumerism, commodity fetishism, and commodification can distort herbal virtues such as self-identity and love.

Jim and Della, the protagonists of ‘The Gift of the Magi’, base the measure of themselves and their love for every distinct on consumerist ideals. Primarily, the narrator devices the scene when he observes: “Now, when [Mr. James Dillingham Young] used to be as soon as being paid solely $20 a week, the title seemed too prolonged and important…Mrs. James Dillingham Young put her hands warmly about him and called him ‘Jim’”. The speaker describes in specific aspects the extent of the couple’s dilapidated dwelling conditions, citing the faulty gadgets that litter the house, such as the faulty doorbell and minuscule mailbox. Consumerism believes that the excessive cost of the products one owns is equitable to their classification status. The narrator helps this notion by using the capability of highlighting the inappropriateness of James’ title in contrast to his social standing. James Dillingham Young speaks of popularity and affluence, of a legacy of wealth exceeded down from generation to generation. It is a title positive to him by means of using hazard, and the narrator asserts that he is no longer deserving of it. The motive is notably based completely on James’ financial status, as an alternative to his character. This sentiment is solidified similarly thru the actuality that James’ private spouse refers to him as Jim. By consumerist standards ‘Jim’ is a brilliant deal greater fitting identity for the income man. Jim is a simple, undeniable name, the type of title deserving for a man of such a low class. Moreover, Della lets this ideology color her judgment when she ponders, “Only $1.87 to purchase a gift for Jim…Something nearly proper enough. Something almost well really worth the honor of belonging to Jim” (2). The story takes brilliant pains to establish the authentic, pure love that exists between James and Della.

As robust as that devotion is, Della believes that she can solely prove her love via economic means. She views Jim’s ‘honor’ as the wealthiest object that can shape his noble character. This viewpoint alters the wholesome nature of love, warping it into opposition to goods. Love existed earlier than currency, however, Della reveals how money has grown to confine the beliefs of love. Furthermore, the story cements its frame of mind on consumerism when the narrator details, “[The gold watch chain’s] rate was in its rich and pure material. Because it was as soon as so simple and simple, you knew that it used to be once very valuable. All correct matters are like this” (3). It is ironic that the phrases ‘plain’ and ‘simple’, typically utilized to describe the conditions of impoverished citizens, are now used to understand an upscale object. This is how the bourgeoisie uses ideology to control the working classes. Unconsciously, the pinnacle type celebrates chasteness and frugality in their commodities, even as outwardly punishing the decreased instructions for the equal traits. This philosophy leads the indigent to revere austere yet luxurious devices, even though the same price can be observed in more cost-effective substitutes. The power of consumerism is simple as it pushes Della to drastic measures to acquire the watch chain.

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Commodity fetishism pushes the young couple to no longer possible lengths to validate their love. Initially, the narrator illustrates the lovers’ deep reverence of cloth gadgets when he expounds: “The James Dillingham Youngs have been very proud of two things which they owned. One trouble used to be Jim’s gold watch…Jim knew that no king had anything so valuable” (2-3). The narrator mentions that the watch has exceeded each technological know-how in the Dillingham Young family. However, this is now no longer what offers the watch value. Gold or not, each and every watch serves an equal function. The genuine worth of the object comes from its perceived luxuriousness, as proven through its likening to the possession of a king. But the perceived grandeur of the watch is no longer adequate to fulfill the couple. Therein lies the hazard of commodity fetishism. Because Jim and Della have staked their ardor for each and every distinctive material item, the attainment of one tremendous commodity solely begets the choice for more. Consequently, Della exemplifies the impact of commodity fetishism when the speaker elucidates, “The other element was once Della’s hair…Della knew her hair was more stunning than any queen’s jewels and gifts” (2). Della’s hair is each different natural component of the world given to her without any consideration of her category status. And yet, her hair is decreased to nothing more than a commodity for an alternative that she wants to sell. She laments this herself, exclaiming: “But what may additionally want to I do…oh! What may favor to I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?” (4). Since she has tied her love for James to physical objects, Della believes she had no extraordinary choice however to sacrifice something as treasured as her very own hair. The concept no longer shows up to her that the electricity of her affection is an admirable gift on its own. In her worldview, love has a ceiling that one can entirely skip via wealth.

Commodification can pervert the image fans have of one each different however can be reversed via way of a trade-in worldview. Initially, Della demonstrates her warped view of her husband when she contemplates: “Quietness and value…Jim and the chain both had quietness and value. She paid twenty-one dollars for it” (3). Della frames her appreciation of her lover in such a manner that it looks as if James wants to be striving to swimsuit the chain’s perfection, however of the other way around. This graphic of James is in a similar way highlighted via the brought detail of the gift’s cost. Since the connection between the object and Della’s beau has already been made, it looks as if the story is claiming that James’ property is really worth additional portions to a mere twenty dollars. Instead of demonstrating the depths of Della’s love, her point of view solely suggests the restrictive parameters of her passion. However, she starts offevolved to smash by using her deep-seated ideologies when she proclaims: “‘Maybe the hairs of my head may want to be counted’, she said, ‘but no one need to ever have in mind my love for you’” (5). Though it used to be Della’s very own fault that her affection became commodified, she comes to a cognizance of the real nature of love. Love is limitless, unlike the economy; its charge cannot be counted. The narrator affirms this message when he declares, “Eight bucks a week or a million greenbacks a year – how unique are they? Someone may additionally also furnish you with an answer, however, it will be wrong” (5). The speaker attracts interest to the truth about money: it entirely has a cloth worth. Innate beliefs such as love have electricity that ascends above humanity’s social constructs. It exists for all of us, whether we’re prosperous or poor. As the story displays, the fact that they have been willing to sacrifice their most prized object for every difference outweighs any object that they could’ve exchanged. By overcoming their ideologies, James and Della’s love grows purer and stronger.

Consumerism, commodity fetishism, and commodification pervert natural elements of humanity, as shown in O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’. The thoughts and moves of the younger couple featured in this tale exhibit the deep-rooted psychological penalties of ideology. Left unchecked, ideology can impact one’s outlook on the world. Jim and Della, in any other case committed couple, commodified their love. Then their pictures of every specific diminished to their diploma of cloth value. This entire method got here about unconsciously, and they had been entirely capable to wreck free of the cycle thru the electricity of their love. The machine as it stays now taints the natural bonds that exist in society. The bourgeoisie strips away the ties that may also encourage the proletariat to upward jostle towards their oppressor with the useful resource of manipulating their psyche. The greater instructions persuade the working coaching that their lifestyles have to be spent devoted to the pursuit of prosperity and that each and every difficulty of their lives works in the route of that end. Reinterpreting ideas such as love and persona as equipment of the economy aids in the continuation of this system. Ultimately, understanding the human spirit over one’s valuation is the first step in curbing the category disparity that has reigned over our society for generations.

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Themes of Consumerism, Commodity Fetishism and Commodification in O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’. (2024, January 04). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
“Themes of Consumerism, Commodity Fetishism and Commodification in O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’.” Edubirdie, 04 Jan. 2024,
Themes of Consumerism, Commodity Fetishism and Commodification in O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Apr. 2024].
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