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Pretty fly for magi.

In the narrator's final paragraph, which is definitely a "zoom out" of epic proportions, the narrator tells us that it doesn't really matter that Jim and Della's presents turned out to be useless. They are the wisest givers of all – in fact, they're the magi. We leave feeling satisfied and happy.

Analysis of the story by O. Henry "The Gift of the Magi"


The story “The Gift of the Magi” was written in 1906 by O. Henry (real name – William Sydney Porter) – a famous American writer. O. Henry's short stories are known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization and clever twist endings. Most of O. Henry's stories are set in his own time, the early 20th century. Many take place in New York City and deal for the most part with ordinary people: clerks, policemen, waitresses, etc.

O. Henry's works are wide-ranging, and his characters can be found roaming the cattle-lands of Texas or investigating the tensions of class and wealth in turn-of-the-century New York. O. Henry had an inimitable hand for isolating some element of society and describing it with an incredible economy and grace of language. O'Henry wrote colorful short stories with surprising and ironic twists. He wrote in a humorous style and, as in "The Gift of the Magi," often ironically used coincidences and surprise endings. Some of his best and least-known work is contained in “Cabbages and Kings”, a series of stories each of which explores some individual aspect of life in a paralytically sleepy Central American town, while advancing some aspect of the larger plot and relating back one to another.

Among his most famous stories are: "The Gift of the Magi", "The Ransom of Red Chief", "The Cop and the Anthem", "A Retrieved Reformation", "The Duplicity of Hargraves".

The story goes about a young couple who are short of money but desperately want to buy each other Christmas gifts. Unbeknown to Jim, Della sells her most valuable possession, her beautiful hair, in order to buy a platinum fob chain for Jim's watch; while unbeknown to Della, Jim sells his own most valuable possession, his watch, to buy jewelled combs for Della's hair. Jim and Della though called “foolish children”, but their gifts are compared with those of the magis’ which are said to be the wisest.

There are several themes in the story:

· Love knows no bounds.

· Sacrifice as proof of wisdom.

· Wealth is not a material thing, but love that is spiritual.

· Femininity is great power.

The events in the story take place in New York City in a very modest apartment and in a hair shop down the street from the apartment. O. Henry sketches the flat with just enough detail to convey it’s image: cheap, sparsely furnished, broken mailbox and doorbell. Everything was grey: Della “looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard”. It is also a case of asyndeton because the conjunction “at” in “walking a grey fence” is omitted. From the “gas” which Della lights and gadgets she has: a stove and curling irons, it can be said that the story is set about the time O. Henry wrote it – the first decade of the 20thcentury). The setting is described in details and it contributes to the vision of poverty and hard life of the young family. The setting of the events is realistic. Porter does not mention New York by name, but he refers to Coney Island, the city's most famous amusement park, located in the borough of Brooklyn. O. Henry also mentions that Della had worshipped the combs for long in a Broadway window. This is another proof that events take place in New York. The action takes place on a Christmas Eve. The drabness of the setting in which Jim and Della live create a contrast with the atmosphere of Christmas and the warmth and richness of their love for each other.

From the very first line of the story we notice the usage of such graphical means as capitalization: “ONE DOLLAR AND EIGHTY-SEVEN CENTS. THAT WAS ALL. AND SIXTY CENTS of it was in pennies”. It is used to draw our attention to the main problem – lack of money. The usage of the pronoun “one” instead of “her” in the following sentence: “Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied” give an utterance a more general character and underline Della’s state when she had to ask money. It was hard for her and she found herself in an awkward situation. There is an epithet: “silent imputation of parsimony”. It also stresses that though Della was strong by her nature: she was “bulldozing” but she was also timid. The inversion: “Three times Della counted it” underline how thrifty and careful Della was. There are constant repetitions of the phase: “one dollar and eighty-seven cents” which stress Della’s hopelessness. A repetition of adjectives “grey”: “…looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard” helps to create the atmosphere of sadness. Anticlimax: “life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles” describe the reality of life”. Another epithet: “beggar description” which is the combination on N1+N2, with N1 performing the function of an adjective describing the flat in which the Dillinghams lived and underline their poverty. The periphrasis: “mortal finger” stands for “person, human being”. It emphasizes the hopeless case of the family. Archaic usage of “thereunto” means “to that”. The usage of metonymy is noticed in the case when the surname “Dillingham” substitutes the word “card with the surname”. A nominative sentence “Her Jim” increase the dynamism and flow of Della’s thoughts. Te usage of article “a” together with a noun with and adjective: “Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him” add stylistic colouring and draw our attention to the fact that Della really troubled about the present because with the help of it she wanted to show her attitude to Jim. This is also a case of inversion: the adverbial modifier is placed at the beginning of the sentence. In the following sentence the case of inversion can also be noticed: “Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length”. It underlines Della’s emotions and wish to act quickly.

James and Della took “mighty pride” in their possessions. This is a case of hyperbole to underline the importance of their ownings to them. There is an allusion from Bible about Queen of Sheba and King Solomon and their wealth, jewels and gifts which are nothing in comparison with Della’s hair and Jim’s watch. Inversion is used in the following sentences: “Had the Queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out of the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy”. It underlines how proud the Dillinghams where of their possessions.

The story is the first and third person narrative. There are also descriptions. The main characters of the story are Jim and Della. The secondary character is Madame Sofronie. Jim and Della are also named as: James Dillingham Youngs – the compound name for the family as one unity of a husband and wife. Della is described as a real woman. She is full of emotions which are described with the help of metaphor: “There was clearly nothing to do but flop down and… howl. So Della did it”. Della had nothing to do but howl – dolefully like a wolf.

Jim is a man and he is quite reserved. The case of periphrasis in naming Jim “lord of the flat” stress that it was he who was who was the breadwinner in the family; “employment of all the comforting powers” is the periphrasis which means that Della needed Jim to hug her and comfort, to calm her down. Madame Sofronie is rather unconversable. She had “a practised hand” in cutting hair, this is the case of epithet. She was “large, too white, chilly, hardly looked”. The usage of the noun in plural: "Take her hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it” adds intensification.

Simile is used to describe Della’s greatest possession her hair: “Della’s beautiful hair fell like a cascade of brown water”. Her hair is a wavy as it is like a cascade, its colour is like brown water.

An example of anaphora which is used to emphasize the repeated unit: “On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat”. It used to show that Della was categoric and she knew and was sure in what she was doing.

The metaphor: “tripped by on rosy wings” describes the mood of Della. She was happy, she was ready to seek for a present for Jim. The fob that had Della bought had “meretricious ornamentation” – epithet, used to describe the beauty of her present, but at the same time it was valuable and simple: “Quietness and value--the description applied to both”. Inversion in the sentence: “Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 78 cents” helps to show how unwilling Della was to give money, how thrifty she was. She would have better bought Jim a new overcoat and gloves – a practical thing, but she was a romantic figure, she valued Jim and she wanted to give him something special. The usage of oxymoron “properly anxious” underline that this fob is also a practical thing. Inversion: “Grand as the watch was” emphasize the refinement of it.

Comparison is noticed: “That made her looks like a truant schoolboy.” After having had her hair cut Della can be compared in her appearance to a truant schoolboy: wandering and straying. Short hair gave her the look of a boy, not of a woman, her look was deprived of femininity.

Della’s looking in the glass is described with the help of gradation: “She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically”. Probably she hadn’t yet realized what she had had done. She somehow tried to comfort herself.

When Della was waiting for Jim she was rather nervous. She was saying “the little silent prayers” – epithet. Jim’s reaction to the new Della’s style is described with the help of simile: “Jim stepped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail”. He was tired after work and this simile underlines his seriousness and shock”. There is an example of repetition of the negative particle “not” to describe Jim’s shock when he saw Della: “It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for”. Here is also anticlimax (nouns “anger – surprise – disapproval – horror”) to describe Della’s relief from Jim’s reaction. Della’s overflow of emotions is can be noticed with the usage of oxymoron: she said that her hair grows “awfully fast”. Antithesis is used to describe opposing feelings: “And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! A quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails”.

Jim’s fatigue has nothing to do with his surprise, it is “the hardest mental labour for him” – the case of epithet. It helps to emphasize Jim’s shock. Della talked to him with “serious sweetness” – oxymoron, used to stress Della’s wish to calm Jim down and at the same time not to irritate him.

Repetition of the conjunction “or” in the sentence: “I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less” indicate Jim’s release from his trance. With the help of epithet Della’s vanished hair is described as “coverted adornments”, to emphasize that now when she got those combs she lacked her hair, now it seems even more precious for her than those combs.

“Della leaped up like a little singed cat” is simily which is used to describe Della’s swiftiness. Graphon used in the sentence: “"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while” emphasizes Jim’s psychological condition, he understood the whole trick.

Speeches in the story give us a particular relief as they are like bridges from what we think may happen next to what is the way out and solution of a certain unexpected twist or problem. Speeches are direct as they are presented in the form of a dialogue and inner (interior monologue) as they present the characters’ thoughts, ideas, beliefs and views. There are also cases of indirect speech which is transformed by the author. There are also inserts of author’s speech.

The story starts with the initial accident: the conflict is set in motion. Della has $1.87 and she has to do something with it to buy a Christmas present for Jim. The rising action is when Della decides to have her hair cut and buys a present for Jim. Climax is when Jim sees Della and is speechless, Della has mixed feelings. The falling action is when Della and Jim find out that they have sold their most precious possessions to buy each other Christmas presents. The resolution is when Jim and Della decide to have Christmas supper.

O. Henry in the story “The Gift of the Magi” brilliantly uses epithets, inversions, similies, periphrases and oxymorons which help to create the true-to-life atmosphere of the events depicted.

Erskine Caldwell "Daughter" Analysis

Below is a free excerpt of "Erskine Caldwell "Daughter" Analysis" from Anti Essays, your source for free research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

Erskine Caldwell
Erskine Preston Caldwell (December 17, 1903 - April 11, 1987) was an American author. His writings about poverty, racism and social problems in his native South like the novels Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre won him critical acclaim, but they also made him controversial among fellow Southerners of the time who felt he was deprecating the people of the region. We also meet the problem of the racism in his short story "Daughter". This story touches post slavery period and describes us conditions of life of poor black people of that time. We noticed that the story under analysis narrated from the third person. We can assume that the narrator was the witness of these events because he knows the names of the heroes and tells us with accuracy about it. Also we can assume that he took part in this story. The story begins with exposition and it's little bit mislead the reader but at the same time it makes him interested. The story consists of so called "triangle": Jim, Sheriff and crowd. The crowd appears at us like a one person, we couldn't allocate from it a certain one. Also we couldn't guess what would happen in the beginning. But due to the "crowd" we understood that our expectations are in vain because everything has already happened. It confirms by the phrases from already mentioned crowd: "What was the trouble out at your place this morning, Jim?", "It must have been an accident, wasn't it, Jim?" So we could guess that something serious or maybe terrible have happened at the protagonists' place. But we aren't incited against the protagonist because the narrator created such feeling that Jim wasn't guilty. It confirms in already mentioned phrases. But it becomes obvious in the second part of the story. In the whole story we meet a lol of repeated phrases and questions. It makes the story more emphatic and vivid. Also the narrator shows

us the superiority of the white people using such phrases as: "Negro", "Colored...


At sunrise a Negro on his way to the big house to feed the mules had takenthe word to Colonel Henry Maxwell, and Colonel Henry phoned the sheriff.

The sheriff had hustled Jim into town and locked him up in the jail, and thenhe went home and ate breakfast.

Jim walked around the empty cellroom while he was buttoning his shirt, andafter that he sat down on the bunk and tied his shoelaces.

Everything thatmorning had taken place so quickly that he had not even had time to get adrink of water.

He got up and went to the water bucket near the door, but thesheriff had forgotten to put water into it.

By that time there were several men standing in the jailyard.

Jim went to thewindow and looked out when he heard them talking.

Just then anotherautomobile drove up, and six or seven men got out.

Other men were comingtowards the jail from both directions of the street.

"What was the trouble out at your place this morning, Jim?"

somebody said.

Jim stuck his chin between the bars and looked at the faces in the crowd.

Heknew everyone there.

While he was trying to figure out how everybody in town had heard about hisbeing there, somebody else spoke to him.

"It must have been an accident, wasn't it?


A colored boy hauling a load of cotton to the gin drove up the street.

Whenthe wagon got in front of the jail, the boy whipped to the mules with the endsof the reins and made them trot.

"I hate to see the State have a grudge against you, Jim," somebody said.

The sheriff came down the street swinging a tin dinner-pail in his hand.

Hepushed through the crowd, unlocked the door, and set the pail inside.

Several men came up behind the sheriff and looked over his shoulder intothe jail.

"Here's your breakfast my wife fixed up for you, Jim.

You'd better eat a little,Jim boy."

Jim looked at the pail, at the sheriff, at the open jail door, and he shook hishead.

"I don't feel hungry," he said.

"Daughter's been hungry, though — awfulhungry."

The sheriff backed out the door, his hand going to the handle of his pistol.

Hebacked out sa quickly that he stepped on the toes of the men behind him.

"Now, don't you get careless, Jim boy," he said.

"Just sit and calm yourself."

He shut the door and locked it.

After he had gone a few steps towards thestreet, he stopped and looked into the chamber of his pistol to make sure ithad been loaded.

The crowd outside the window pressed in closer.

Some of the men rapped onthe bars until Jim came and looked out.

When he saw them, he stuck his chinbetween the iron and gripped his hands around it.

"How come it to happen, Jim?"

somebody asked.

"It must have been anaccident, wasn't it?"

Jim's long thin face looked as if it would come through the bars.

The sheriffcame up to the window to see if everything was all "right.


"Now, just take it easy, Jim boy," he said.

The man who.had asked Jim to tell what had happened, elbowed the sheriffout of the way.

The other men crowded closer.

"How come, Jim?"

the man said.

"Was it an accident?"

"No," Jim said, his fingers twisting about the bars.

"I picked up my shotgunand done it."

The sheriff pushed towards the window again.

"Go on, Jim, and tell us what it's all about."

Jim's face squeezed between the bars until it looked as though only his earskept his head from coming through.

'"Daughter said she was hungry, and I just couldn't stand it no longer.

I justcouldn't stand to hear her say it."



Success Story by J. G. Cozzens


I met Richards ten or more years ago when I first went down to Cuba.

He wasa short, sharp-faced, agreeable chap, then about 22.

He introduced himself tome on the boat and I was surprised to find that Panamerica Steel was sendingus both to the same


Richards was from some not very good state university engineering schooP.

Being the same age myself, and just out of technical college I saw at once thathis knowledge was rather poor.

In fact I couldn't imagine how he hadmanaged to get this job.

Richards was naturally likable, and I liked him a lot.

The firm had a contractfor the construction of a private railroad.

For Richards and me it was mostlyan easy job of inspections and routine paper work.

At least it was easy for me.

It was harder for Richards, because he didn't appear to have mastered theuse of a slide rule.

When he asked me to check his figures I found hiscalculations awful.

"Boy," I was at last obliged to say, "you are undoubtedlythe silliest white man in this province.

Look, stupid, didn't you evertakearithmetic?

How much are seven times thirteen?"

"Work that out," Richardssaid, "and let me have a report tomorrow."

So when I had time I checked his figures for him, and the inspector onlycaught him in a bad mistake about twice.

In January several directors of theUnited Sugar Company came down to us on business, but mostly pleasure;

agood excuse to 'get south on a vacation.

Richards and I were to accompanythem around the place.

One of the directors, Mr. Prosset was asking anumber of questions.

I knew the job well enough to answer every sensiblequestion – the sort of question that a trained engineer would be likely to ask.

As it was Mr. Prosset was not an engineer and some of his questions put meat a loss.

For the third time I was obliged to say, "I'm afraid I don't know, sir.

We haven't any calculations on that".

When suddenly Richards spoke up.

"I think, about nine million cubic feet, sir", he said.

"I just happened to beworking this out last night.

Just for my own interest".

"Oh," said Mr. Prosset, turning in his seat and giving him a sharp look.

"That'svery interesting, Mr. -er- Richards, isn't it?

Well, now, maybe you could tell meabout".

Richards could.

Richards knew everything.

All the way up Mr. Prosset firedquestions on him and he fired answers right back.

When we reached thehead of the rail, a motor was waiting for Mr. Prosset.

He nodded absent-mindedly to me, shook hands with Richards.

"Very interesting, indeed," hesaid.

"Good-bye, Mr. Richards, and thank you."

"Not, at all, sir," Richards said.

"Glad if I could be of service to you."

As soon as the car moved off, I exploded.

"A little honest bluff doesn't hurt;

but some of your figures...!"

"I like to please," said Richards grinning.

"If a man like Prosset wants to knowsomething, who am I to hold out on him?"

"What's he going to think when he looks up the figures or asks somebodywho does know?"

"Listen, my son," said Richards kindly.

"He wasn't asking for any informationhe was going to use.

He doesn't want to know these figures.

He won'tremember them.

I don't even remember them myself.

What he is going toremember is you and me."

"Yes," said Richards firmly.

"He is going toremember that Panamerica Steel has a bright young man named Richardswho could tell him everything, he wanted, – just the sort of chap he can use;



Cipher in the Snow, written by Jean Mizer, an Idaho teacher, counselor and guidance director, was first published in the NEA Journal, 50:8-10, 1964. It won first prize in the first Reader's Digest/NEA Journal writing competition.[1][2]

It has since been frequently reprinted and the story and film used in religious education: for instance, as part of anti-bullyinginitiatives.[3]

Brigham Young University made a movie of it in 1973. The film was produced by Wetzel Whitaker and Keith Atkinson, with a screenplay by Carol Lynn Pearson. A DVD of the movie is available through BYU's Creative Works Office.


The story is about an ostracized teenager, Cliff Evans, who following his parents' divorce has no friends and becomes a completely withdrawn "cipher". Then on a school bus, he asks to be let off, and collapses and dies in the snow near the roadside. His school's math teacher is asked to notify his parents and write the obituary. Though listed as Cliff's favorite teacher, he recalls that he hardly knew him. After getting a delegation to go to the funeral - it's impossible to find ten people who knew him well enough to go - the teacher resolves never to let this happen to another child in his charge. It is implied that his death was because no one loved him.

Cipher in the Snow


A True Story

It started with tragedy on a biting cold February morning. I was driving behind the Milford Corners bus as I did most snowy mornings on my way to school. The bus veered and stopped short at the hotel, which it had no business doing, and I was annoyed as I had to come to an unexpected stop. The boy lurched out of the bus, reeled, stumbled, and collapsed on the snow bank at the curb. The bus driver and I reached him at the same moment. The boy’s thin, hollow face was white even against the snow.

"He's dead," the driver whispered.

It didn't register for a minute. I glanced quickly at the scared young faces staring down at us from the school bus. "A doctor! Quick! I'll phone from the hotel . . ."

"No use, I tell you, he's dead." The driver looked down at the boy's still form. "He never even said he felt bad," he muttered. "Just tapped me on the shoulder and said, real quiet, 'I'm sorry. I have to get off at the hotel.' That's all. Polite and apologizing like."

At school the giggling, shuffling morning noise quieted as news went down the halls. I passed a huddle of girls. "Who was it? Who dropped dead on the way to school?" I heard one of them half-whisper.

"Don't know his name. Some kid from Milford Corners," was the reply.

It was like that in the faculty room and the principal's office. "I'd appreciate your going out to tell the parents," the principal told me. "They haven't a phone, and anyway, somebody from the school should go there in person. I'll cover your classes."

"Why me?" I asked. "Wouldn't it be better if you did it?"

"I didn't know the boy," the principal admitted levelly. "And in last year's sophomore personalities column I noted that you were listed as his favorite teacher."

I drove through the snow and cold down the bad canyon road to the Evans' place and thought about the boy, Cliff Evans. His favorite teacher! I thought. He hasn't spoken two words to me in two years! I could see him in my mind's eye all right, sitting back there in the last seat in my afternoon literature class. He came in the room by himself and left by himself. "Cliff Evans," I muttered to myself, "a boy who never talked." I thought a minute. "A boy who never smiled. I never saw him smile once."

The big ranch kitchen was clean and warm. I blurted out my news somehow. Mrs. Evans reached blindly toward a chair. "He never said anything about bein' ailing."

His stepfather snorted. "He ain't said nothin' about anything since I moved in here."

Mrs. Evans pushed a pan to the back of the stove and began to untie her apron. "Now hold on," her husband snapped. "I got to have breakfast before I go to town. Nothin' we can do now, anyway. If Cliff hadn't been so dumb, he'd have told us he didn't feel good."

After school I sat in the office and stared blankly at the records spread out before me. I was to read the file and write the obituary for the school paper. The almost bare sheets mocked the effort. Cliff Evans, white, never legally adopted by stepfather, five young half-brothers and sisters. These meager strands of information and the list of "D" grades were all the records had to offer.

Cliff Evans had silently come in the school door in the mornings and gone out the school door in the evenings, and that was all. He had never belonged to a club. He had never played on a team. He had never held an office. As far as I could tell, he had never done one happy, noisy kid thing. He had never been anybody at all.

How do you go about making a boy into a zero? The grade-school records showed me. The first and second grade teachers' annotations read, "Sweet, shy child," "timid but eager." Then the third grade note had opened the attack. Some teacher had written in a good, firm hand, "Cliff won't talk. Uncooperative. Slow learner." The other academic sheep and followed with "dull," "slow-witted," "low I.Q." They became correct. The boy's I.Q score in the ninth grade was listed at 83. But his I.Q. in the third grade had been 106. The score didn't go under 100 until the seventh grade. Even the shy, timid, sweet children have resilience. It takes time to break them.

I stomped to the typewriter and wrote a savage report pointing out what education had done to Cliff Evans. I slapped a copy on the principal's desk and another in the sad, dog-eared file. I banged the typewriter and slammed the file and crashed the door shut, but I didn't feel much better. A little boy kept walking after me, a little boy with a peaked, pale face; a skinny body in faded jeans; and big eyes that had looked and searched for a long time and then had become veiled.

I could guess how many times he had been chosen last to play sides in a game, how many whispered child conversations had excluded him, how many times he hadn't been asked. I could see and hear the faces that said over and over, "You're nothing, Cliff Evans."

A child is a believing creature. Cliff undoubtedly believed them. Suddenly it seemed clear to me: When finally there was nothing left at all for Cliff Evans, he collapsed on a snow bank and went away. The doctor might list "heart failure" as the cause of death, but that wouldn't change my mind.

We couldn't find ten students in the school who had known Cliff well enough to attend the funeral as his friends. So the student body officers and a committee from the junior class went as a group to the church, being politely sad. I attended the services with them, and sat through it with a lump of cold lead in my chest and a big resolve growing through me.

I've never forgotten Cliff Evans nor that resolve. He has been my challenge year after year, class after class. I look for veiled eyes or bodies scrounged into a seat in an alien world. "Look, kids," I say silently. "I may not do anything else for you this year, but not one of you is going to come out of here as a nobody. I'll work or fight to the bitter end doing battle with society and the school board, but I won't have one of you coming out of there thinking himself a zero."

Most of the time -- not always, but most of the time -- I've succeeded.

Jean Mizer

Subject: [ZA] The Annual Letters
Date: Sun, 6 Oct 2002 11:09:05 +0200

I subscribe to Chicken Soup and the story below just caught my eye. How often one of us has said I wish there was some record or a better record of our ancestors? I know that even now that I wish that I had written down things that had happened with my five children. One's memory is not infallible and as time passes by we forget details. The content of the article below just seemed to speak to me and I thought it would be of interest to some of the listers. It's a great idea and would leave such a legacy behind for our children or family member....doesn't have to just be about our children. Could be things you remember about your parents, grandparents, friends etc.

Hope you enjoy it and that I'm not overstepping the mark here by sending it to you.
Take care

The Annual Letters
By Raymond L. Aaron
Shortly after my daughter Juli-Ann was born, I started a loving tradition that I know others (with whom I have subsequently shared this special plan) have also started. I tell you the idea here both to open your heart with the warmth of my story and also to encourage you to start this tradition within your own family.

Every year, on her birthday, I write an Annual Letter to my daughter. I fill it with funny anecdotes that happened to her that year, hardships or joys, issues that are important in my life or hers, world events, my predictions for the future, miscellaneous thoughts, etc. I add to the letter photographs, presents, report cards and many other types of mementos that would certainly have otherwise disappeared as the years passed.

I keep a folder in my desk drawer in which, all year long, I place things that I want to include in the envelope containing her next Annual Letter. Every week, I make short notes of what I can think of from the week's events that I will want to recall later in the year to write in her Annual Letter. When her birthday approaches, I take out that folder and find it overflowing with ideas, thoughts, poems, cards, treasures, stories, incidents and memories of all sorts - many of which I had already forgotten - and which I then eagerly transcribe into that year's Annual Letter.

Once the letter is written and all the treasures are inserted into the envelope, I seal it. It then becomes that year's Annual Letter. On the envelope I always write "Annual Letter to Juli-Ann from her Daddy on the occasion of her nth Birthday - to be opened when she is 21 years old."

It is a time capsule of love from every different year of her life, to her as an adult. It is a gift of loving memories from one generation to the next. It is a permanent record of her life, written as she was actually living it.

Our tradition is that I show her the sealed envelope with the proclamation written on it that she may read it when she is 21. Then I take her to the bank, open the safe deposit box and tenderly place that year's Annual Letter on top of the growing pile of its predecessors. She sometimes takes them all out to look at them and feel them. She sometimes asks me about their contents and I always refuse to tell her what is inside.

In recent years, Juli-Ann had given me some of her special childhood treasures, which she is growing too old for but which she does not want to lose. And she asks me to include them in her Annual Letter so that she will always have them.

The tradition of writing her Annual Letters is now one of my most sacred duties as a dad. And, as Juli-Ann grows older, I can see that it is a growing and special part of her life, too.

One day, we were sitting with friends musing about what we will be doing in the future. I cannot recall the exact words spoken, but it went something like this: I jokingly told Juli-Ann that on her 61st birthday, she will be playing with her grandchildren. Then, I whimsically invented that on her 31st birthday she will be driving her own kids to hockey practice. Getting into the groove of this funny game and encouraged by Juli-Ann's evident enjoyment of my fantasies, I continued. On your 21st birthday, you will be graduating from university. "No," she interjected. "I will be too busy reading!"

One of my deepest desires is to be alive and present to enjoy that wonderful time in the future when the time capsules are opened and the accumulated mountains of love come tumbling out of the past, back into my adult daughter's life.


He Sniper

byLiam O'Flaherty (1897-1984)

Word Count: 1619

The long June twilight faded into night. Dublin lay enveloped in darkness but for the dim light of the moon that shone through fleecy clouds, casting a pale light as of approaching dawn over the streets and the dark waters of the Liffey. Around the beleaguered Four Courts the heavy guns roared. Here and there through the city, machine guns and rifles broke the silence of the night, spasmodically, like dogs barking on lone farms. Republicans and Free Staters were waging civil war.

On a rooftop near O'Connell Bridge, a Republican sniper lay watching. Beside him lay his rifle and over his shoulders was slung a pair of field glasses. His face was the face of a student, thin and ascetic, but his eyes had the cold gleam of the fanatic. They were deep and thoughtful, the eyes of a man who is used to looking at death.

He was eating a sandwich hungrily. He had eaten nothing since morning. He had been too excited to eat. He finished the sandwich, and, taking a flask of whiskey from his pocket, he took a short drought. Then he returned the flask to his pocket. He paused for a moment, considering whether he should risk a smoke. It was dangerous. The flash might be seen in the darkness, and there were enemies watching. He decided to take the risk.

Placing a cigarette between his lips, he struck a match, inhaled the smoke hurriedly and put out the light. Almost immediately, a bullet flattened itself against the parapet of the roof. The sniper took another whiff and put out the cigarette. Then he swore softly and crawled away to the left.

Cautiously he raised himself and peered over the parapet. There was a flash and a bullet whizzed over his head. He dropped immediately. He had seen the flash. It came from the opposite side of the street.

He rolled over the roof to a chimney stack in the rear, and slowly drew himself up behind it, until his eyes were level with the top of the parapet. There was nothing to be seen--just the dim outline of the opposite housetop against the blue sky. His enemy was under cover.

Just then an armored car came across the bridge and advanced slowly up the street. It stopped on the opposite side of the street, fifty yards ahead. The sniper could hear the dull panting of the motor. His heart beat faster. It was an enemy car. He wanted to fire, but he knew it was useless. His bullets would never pierce the steel that covered the gray monster.

Then round the corner of a side street came an old woman, her head covered by a tattered shawl. She began to talk to the man in the turret of the car. She was pointing to the roof where the sniper lay. An informer.

The turret opened. A man's head and shoulders appeared, looking toward the sniper. The sniper raised his rifle and fired. The head fell heavily on the turret wall. The woman darted toward the side street. The sniper fired again. The woman whirled round and fell with a shriek into the gutter.

Suddenly from the opposite roof a shot rang out and the sniper dropped his rifle with a curse. The rifle clattered to the roof. The sniper thought the noise would wake the dead. He stooped to pick the rifle up. He couldn't lift it. His forearm was dead. "I'm hit," he muttered.

Dropping flat onto the roof, he crawled back to the parapet. With his left hand he felt the injured right forearm. The blood was oozing through the sleeve of his coat. There was no pain--just a deadened sensation, as if the arm had been cut off.

Quickly he drew his knife from his pocket, opened it on the breastwork of the parapet, and ripped open the sleeve. There was a small hole where the bullet had entered. On the other side there was no hole. The bullet had lodged in the bone. It must have fractured it. He bent the arm below the wound. the arm bent back easily. He ground his teeth to overcome the pain.

Then taking out his field dressing, he ripped open the packet with his knife. He broke the neck of the iodine bottle and let the bitter fluid drip into the wound. A paroxysm of pain swept through him. He placed the cotton wadding over the wound and wrapped the dressing over it. He tied the ends with his teeth.

Then he lay still against the parapet, and, closing his eyes, he made an effort of will to overcome the pain.

In the street beneath all was still. The armored car had retired speedily over the bridge, with the machine gunner's head hanging lifeless over the turret. The woman's corpse lay still in the gutter.

The sniper lay still for a long time nursing his wounded arm and planning escape. Morning must not find him wounded on the roof. The enemy on the opposite roof coverd his escape. He must kill that enemy and he could not use his rifle. He had only a revolver to do it. Then he thought of a plan.

Taking off his cap, he placed it over the muzzle of his rifle. Then he pushed the rifle slowly upward over the parapet, until the cap was visible from the opposite side of the street. Almost immediately there was a report, and a bullet pierced the center of the cap. The sniper slanted the rifle forward. The cap clipped down into the street. Then catching the rifle in the middle, the sniper dropped his left hand over the roof and let it hang, lifelessly. After a few moments he let the rifle drop to the street. Then he sank to the roof, dragging his hand with him.

Crawling quickly to his feet, he peered up at the corner of the roof. His ruse had succeeded. The other sniper, seeing the cap and rifle fall, thought that he had killed his man. He was now standing before a row of chimney pots, looking across, with his head clearly silhouetted against the western sky.

The Republican sniper smiled and lifted his revolver above the edge of the parapet. The distance was about fifty yards--a hard shot in the dim light, and his right arm was paining him like a thousand devils. He took a steady aim. His hand trembled with eagerness. Pressing his lips together, he took a deep breath through his nostrils and fired. He was almost deafened with the report and his arm shook with the recoil.

Then when the smoke cleared, he peered across and uttered a cry of joy. His enemy had been hit. He was reeling over the parapet in his death agony. He struggled to keep his feet, but he was slowly falling forward as if in a dream. The rifle fell from his grasp, hit the parapet, fell over, bounded off the pole of a barber's shop beneath and then clattered on the pavement.

Then the dying man on the roof crumpled up and fell forward. The body turned over and over in space and hit the ground with a dull thud. Then it lay still.

The sniper looked at his enemy falling and he shuddered. The lust of battle died in him. He became bitten by remorse. The sweat stood out in beads on his forehead. Weakened by his wound and the long summer day of fasting and watching on the roof, he revolted from the sight of the shattered mass of his dead enemy. His teeth chattered, he began to gibber to himself, cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody.

He looked at the smoking revolver in his hand, and with an oath he hurled it to the roof at his feet. The revolver went off with a concussion and the bullet whizzed past the sniper's head. He was frightened back to his senses by the shock. His nerves steadied. The cloud of fear scattered from his mind and he laughed.

Taking the whiskey flask from his pocket, he emptied it a drought. He felt reckless under the influence of the spirit. He decided to leave the roof now and look for his company commander, to report. Everywhere around was quiet. There was not much danger in going through the streets. He picked up his revolver and put it in his pocket. Then he crawled down through the skylight to the house underneath.

When the sniper reached the laneway on the street level, he felt a sudden curiosity as to the identity of the enemy sniper whom he had killed. He decided that he was a good shot, whoever he was. He wondered did he know him. Perhaps he had been in his own company before the split in the army. He decided to risk going over to have a look at him. He peered around the corner into O'Connell Street. In the upper part of the street there was heavy firing, but around here all was quiet.

The sniper darted across the street. A machine gun tore up the ground around him with a hail of bullets, but he escaped. He threw himself face downward beside the corpse. The machine gun stopped.

Then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother's face.

“The Sniper” relates an encounter in downtown Dublin, near the O’Connell Bridge, between a sniper for the Republicans and a sniper for the Free Staters. Guns roar in the distance as the Republican sniper lies on a rooftop. He is a young boy. “His face was that of a student—thin and ascetic, but his eyes had the cold gleam of a fanatic . . . the eyes of a man who is used to looking at death.”

It is a June evening, and the sniper, who has had nothing to eat since morning, hungrily wolfs down a sandwich and takes a short drink from the flask of whiskey he carries in his pocket. He desperately wants a cigarette and finally risks showing his position by igniting a match and lighting one. Instantly, a bullet hits the wall near him. He takes two puffs of the cigarette and snuffs it. He raises himself to look over the parapet, but another bullet whizzes by his head, and he flattens himself against the roof.

An armored car crosses O’Connell Bridge and stops just below the sniper’s position. An old woman with a tattered shawl around her head comes out of a side street to talk with a man in the turret of the armored car. The sniper wants to shoot at the armored car, but he knows that his bullets will not penetrate its fortified exterior. The old woman points in the direction of the sniper, who now realizes that she is an informer. When the man inside opens the turret to talk with her, the sniper shoots, and the man slumps over lifeless. The woman hurries toward the side street, but the sniper shoots again. The old woman shrieks and falls into the gutter. The car speeds away, the man in the turret still slumped there. More shooting is heard, and the sniper knows that it is coming from the roof across the way. He has been hit in his right arm, in which he has lost all feeling.

The sniper takes out his knife and uses it to rip open his shirt. He sees that a bullet has gone into his arm but has not emerged from the other side. He takes out his field-dressing kit, breaks off the top of the iodine bottle that he pulls from it, and pours the dark liquid into his wound. Then he applies the bandages from his kit, using his teeth to tie the knot.

The sniper knows that he must get off the roof by morning or else the enemy sniper will kill him. He realizes that the sniper on the roof across the way is watching him every minute and will not let him get away. Taking his rifle, which is useless to him because his wounded arm makes it impossible for him to fire it, he puts his army cap on the muzzle and raises it slightly above the parapet. A shot rings out and the cap falls to the earth far below. The sniper lets his left arm hang lifelessly over the parapet, holding his rifle in it. Then he lets the rifle fall and rolls over.

The opposing sniper, assuming that his enemy is dead, relaxes his vigilance and stands up on the roof. The Republican sniper aims his revolver at his opponent and fires. The enemy sniper reels over the parapet in his death agony, then falls to the earth. The Republican sniper is suddenly revolted by what he sees and by what he has done. “His teeth chattered. He began to gibber to himself, cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody.” He drains his whiskey flask in one draft.

The sniper leaves the roof. When he gets to the street, his curiosity overcomes him and forces him to steal over to see whom he has shot. He attracts machine-gun fire as he goes toward the dead sniper, but he is not hit. He flings himself down beside the body of the man he has killed, then turns it over. He finds himself staring into his own brother’s face.

The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty, is the story of a young Republican sniper in Ireland. The story is about the civil war against the Republican and Free Staters that occurred in Dublin. In this war torn story, the author strongly suggests that war not only changes people physically, but mentally as well.

Firstly, war changes everyone’s daily routine. In this sentence, “He was eating a sandwich hungrily. HE had eaten nothing since morning.” (O’Flaherty, 3) shows that the young sniper hadn’t eaten since morning and was hungry. Normal people would have had three meals a day, but because of the war, the sniped had to change his eating routine, prioritizing the battle. The sniper was also a smoker, “…. considering whether he should risk a smoke. It was dangerous. The flash might be seen in darkness, and there were enemies watching.” (O’ Flaherty, 3) This sentence revels the sniper was desperate for a cigarette because he was addicted. It also shows that the sniper was very cautious, he knew that lighting the cigarette was a risk because of the flash, and he knew the enemies were watching. He was so desperate for a cigarette “He decided to take the risk.” (O’Flaherty 3) , and because of his strong addiction to cigarettes, his desperation seeped through, and he was risking his life for just a drag of smoke. The story itself represents desperation, the desperation of killing the enemy, the desperation of winning with personal losses.

Secondly, through the physical descriptions and descriptions of his actions, the Sniper was painted as a cold-blooded killer. This sentence states: “but his eyes had the cold gleam of the fanatic.” (O’Flaherty, 2). The sniper was a cold murderer and is evident when he sees an informer, “ The sniper raised his gun and fired. The head fell heavily on the turret wall.” (O’Flaherty, 7). “ “He must kill the enemy and he could not use his rifle” (O’Flaherty, 8), these sentences show the desperation to kill from the Sniper, and nothing would stop him. This sentence again physically describes the Sniper, “..The eyes of a man who is used to look at death.” (O’Flaherty, 2), and that he was used to looking at death. The war converts people into cold-blooded murderers don’t think. They just kill.

Finally, “The Sniper” presents human perseverance for fighting for what they believe in. When the Sniper was shot, this sentence shows, “he made an effort to overcome the pain.” (O’Flaherty, 7) that he was making an effort to make sure he was good enough to continue fighting. He was fighting for what he believed was best for his people and his country. When the sniper decided to risk his life again to see who was his last victim, “The Sniper darter across the street. A machine-gun tore up the ground around him with a hail of bullets.” (O’Flaherty, 15), he was desperate because he was risking his life.

In conclusion, it can be said that war can affect the way we think and the way we act. “The Sniper” is just one example of how war affects people mentally. People at war don’t think before they act, in fact the only thing on their mind is killing the enemy. War also tears families apart, and this is shown when the Sniper kills the enemy and is later found to be his brother. When you’re in battleground, you don’t consider others, you continue fighting till the bitter end.

The Sniper

Author Biography
Plot Summary
Historical Context
Critical Overview
Further Reading

Liam O'Flaherty


"The Sniper," a story about the Irish civil war, was Liam O'Flaherty's first published piece of fiction. It appeared in 1923 in the London publication The New Leader. Over the years, it has been reprinted several times, and as of 2004 it could be found in O'Flaherty's Collected Stories. "The Sniper" helped set O'Flaherty firmly on the writer's path. Upon reading it, Edward Garnett, an influential London editor, recommended a publisher bring forth the novel that O'Flaherty had just completed. Thus began a literary career that lasted for three decades.

O'Flaherty was intensely involved in Irish politics as a young man, joining both the Communist party in Ireland and later the Republican army. Nonetheless, throughout his career, O'Flaherty only wrote a handful of overtly political stories. In the fall of 1922, after taking part in the Four Courts incident as a Republican soldier, O'Flaherty fled Ireland. Settling in London, O'Flaherty procured a typewriter and wrote "The Sniper" while the devastating Irish civil war was still going on. O'Flaherty drew upon his experiences to create a piece of fiction that shows that the civil war had repercussions stretching far beyond the field of battle. O'Flaherty places his protagonist, a sniper, in a kill or be killed situation. After the sniper shoots an enemy soldier, he discovers he has just killed his brother. The sniper's emotional detachment throughout the story, coupled with this startling ending, allows O'Flaherty to indirectly address the way in which the Irish civil war led to the disunity of Irish society.

Author Biography

Liam O'Flaherty was born in 1896 on Inishmore, an Aran Island off the coast of Ireland. O'Flaherty wrote his first piece of fiction when he was about seven years old. He also proved to be an exceptional student, and a visiting cleric thought he showed an aptitude for the priesthood. In 1908 O'Flaherty won a scholarship to attend a Catholic school, Rockwell College, on Ireland's mainland, where he studied until 1912. He continued his education at Blackrock College from 1912 to 1913, also run by priests, where he organized a group of students who supported the Republican cause in Ireland. In 1914 he entered Holy Cross College in Dublin, which was a seminary designed to prepare young men for the priesthood. O'Flaherty, however, did not want to become a priest, and left after one semester. He then went to University College, also in Dublin, where he studied for a year from 1914 to 1915.

World War I disrupted O'Flaherty's studies. He left college in 1915 to join the Irish Guards of the British army. During the war, he served in France and Belgium. Due to shellshock, O'Flaherty was given a medical discharge from the military in 1917.

After a few months in Ireland, O'Flaherty spent the next two years traveling about and doing odd jobs. He went to London, South America, Canada, and the United States. He also crewed on ships sailing the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. During this period, his brother urged him to write about his experiences. O'Flaherty wrote four short stories, but they were rejected by publishers, and O'Flaherty gave up writing.

O'Flaherty returned to Ireland in 1920 and became involved in politics. He supported the Republican cause and also joined the Communist party. In 1922 he and a group of unemployed men seized control of a public building. They raised the Communist flag over it and declared an Irish socialist revolution. In the Irish civil war, he aligned himself with the Republicans, opposing the division of Ireland, and took part in the Four Courts rebellion. A fugitive from the Irish authorities, O'Flaherty fled to London in 1922.

Once again O'Flaherty took up writing. In 1923, he published his first short story, "The Sniper,"

in a British weekly paper. After that, he wrote steadily. Later that year, he published his first novel, Thy Neighbor's Wife. He spent the next three decades as a professional writer.

Most of O'Flaherty's novels and short stories take place on the Aran Islands of his youth. However, some of his most well-known works have Dublin as their setting, like The Informer (1925), which won the 1926 James Tait Black Memorial Prize in England for the best novel of the year, as well as a prize in France. O'Flaherty also wrote nonfiction and stories in his native tongue, Irish Gaelic. In 1932 O'Flaherty and a group of other well-known writers founded the Irish Academy of Letters.

O'Flaherty retired from writing in the mid-1950s, moved to Dublin shortly thereafter, but spent much of his time traveling. He died in 1984 in Dublin.

Plot Summary

Late at night, a lone Republican sniper waits atop a rooftop in Dublin, Ireland. It is June of 1922. Nearby Republican and Free States forces battle over the Four Courts judicial building and throughout the city.

The sniper has been on the rooftop since the morning. Now he eats a sandwich and drinks some whiskey. He risks lighting a cigarette for a quick puff. The light from his cigarette alerts an enemy soldier to his presence. A bullet flies toward the sniper's rooftop. He puts out the cigarette and switches position.

However, the flash of the rifle tells the sniper his enemy's location. The sniper realizes that his enemy also has taken cover—on the roof of the house across the street.

In the street below, an armored car moves. The sniper knows it is an enemy car but it would be useless to shoot at it. As he watches, he sees an old woman approaching the car. She speaks to the soldier manning the turret, pointing at the sniper's rooftop. As the turret opens and the soldier looks out, the sniper raises his rifle and shoots him, killing him. Then the sniper shoots the old woman as she tries to run away.

From the roof opposite, the enemy sniper fires. His bullet hits the sniper in the arm, and he drops his rifle. The sniper examines his wound. He realizes that the bullet is still lodged in his arm and that the arm is fractured. He painfully applies a field dressing and then rests from his effort.

The sniper knows he must devise a plan. He cannot leave the roof because the enemy is blocking any exit from the building, but if he is still on the roof in the morning, Free State soldiers will come for him and kill him. He must kill his enemy before morning so he can escape.

The sniper places his cap on the muzzle of the rifle, which is now useless because he cannot operate it with only one good arm. He pushes the rifle upward so the cap appears over the edge of the roof. In response, the enemy sniper shoots, hitting the cap dead center. The sniper lets his rifle fall forward. He lets the hand holding the rifle dangle over the side of the roof. Then the rifle clatters to the street. Finally, the sniper drags his hand back.

When the sniper peers over the roof, he sees that his plan has fooled the enemy into thinking he is dead. The other sniper now stands uprights and looks across the street that separates the two houses. The sniper lifts his revolver. Taking careful aim, the sniper fires and hits the enemy. The other sniper falls over the edge of the roof down to the pavement below. On the street below, he lies still.

Now that the battle is over, the sniper feels remorse. He curses the civil war and his own role in it. Then he hurls the revolver to the ground. It goes off, sending a bullet past his head. The shock of the near miss returns him to his senses.

The sniper takes a drink of whiskey and decides to descend from the roof and try to rejoin his company. Retrieving his revolver, the sniper crawls down into the house. Once at the street level, the sniper has an urge to see the man he killed. He might know the man from the army before the civil war began. The sniper runs into the street, drawing a spate of machine gun fire from a distance. He throws himself on the ground besides the corpse of the enemy sniper. He turns the body over. He looks into the face of his brother.


The Enemy Sniper

The Enemy Sniper is the Sniper's main opponent in the story. A member of the Free State army, he still shares similarities with the Sniper. The two men are engaged in the same role. The Enemy Sniper, too, is a good shot, enough so that he wins the respect of the Sniper by the end of the story. His physical presence, on a rooftop across the street, further reinforces the idea that he is a mirror image for the Sniper.

The Enemy Sniper wants to kill the Sniper. He appears to have the advantage after shooting and injuring the Sniper. He makes a fatal error, however, when he falls for the Sniper's ruse. Once he thinks he has killed the other man, the Enemy Sniper stands up on his rooftop, thus making himself a clear mark. The Sniper shoots him, and he falls to the street below, dead. After that, the Sniper—along with the reader—discovers that the two snipers are brothers.

The Old Woman

The Old Woman points out the Sniper's location on the rooftop to the Soldier in the Turret. The Sniper shoots and kills her.

The Sniper

The Sniper is the main character of the story. This young man is a member of the Republican army and his eyes have "the cold gleam of the fanatic." A hardened fighter, the Sniper has become a man "used to looking at death." In his role as a soldier, he functions efficiently and automatically. For instance, when he gets shot, he applies his own field dressing despite the excruciating pain. Only occasionally does he allow himself to make poor decisions, notably when he decides to risk lighting a cigarette, which alerts the enemy soldiers to his location on the roof.


Date: 2016-01-14; view: 2755

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