The writer will now use Roland Barthe’s 5 codes to analyze a literary work. The literary work analyzed is the prose by O Henry entitled The Gift of The Magi. The analysis shall be conducted in accordance with the code as well as the theme of the prose.
The first code is Proairetic, concentrating on the sequences of events (including causes and effects) within the literary work. In the prose, it can be seen inThere was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it, which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles and smiles with sniffles predominating. Those sentences reflect a cause and an effect. The cause is that Della finds nothing to do other than sitting down heavily and moaning. The effect is that Della finally does it heavily, triggering her think that her life is built up out of sobs, sniffles and sniffle predominated-smiles.
The second code is Hermeneutic, focusing on events provoking readers’ curiosity. This code is clearly seen in Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling—something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim. When readers are reading those 2 sentences above, they will be curious of what is something fine, rare, sterling and almost worthy possessed by Jim that Della intends to give.
The third code is Cultural, concentrating on any culture found in the literary work. The term pier-glass in There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room represent the code. A pier-glass is a type of mirrors with an artistic and ornamental figure. It is the type of mirrors which could be found in the era during which O Henry lived.
The fourth code is Semic, focusing on the connotations and characterization to be related to theme. In the prose, the code can be found in the title The Gift of The Magi. The word giftis a denotation, signifying something that we give towards somebody else. Nevertheless, the word magi is a connotation and represents both main characters in the prose: Jim and Della. Similar to the 3 magies giving baby Jesus, Someone special for them, nice and genuine presents in the manger on Christmas. Even though they are poor, but Jim and Della, one is special for the other, also give a nice genuine present from all the richness that they have.
The fifth code is Symbolic, concentrating on binaries for a good and better comprehension on the reality which can then be related to theme. Unfortunately, the code is absent in the entire prose. The prose only presents economically-poor characters living in an economically-poor condition as well and does not present any binaries within.
Finally, the theme, which is the main idea of the whole prose containing also a universal value. The theme brought up in the prose comes from the Semic code and is perceived from the 2 main characters, Jim and Della. It is that we give something to someone special, we always give something from our richness. Here, richness does not take form in money only, but it takes form of everything that we own. In spite of the mediocre lack of money, Della manages to give her Jim a nice Christmas present from her hair, which is her precious thing. Jim also manages to give his Della a nice Christmas present from his golden watch, which is his precious thing as well.