“The Gift of the Magi” by O Henry

Table of Content

Love, care, and sacrifice are essential in most relationships, particularly in marriage. In “The Gift of the Magi,” O. Henry skillfully portrays the love, care, and sacrifice exchanged between Della and Jim. The story’s popularity is owed to its unexpected ending and the elements of chance and coincidence. O. Henry’s depiction of the profound love shared by Jim and Della captivates readers.

Henry’s unmatched use of flowery language, a scholarly and literary style, and an exceptional ironic tone is evident in his writing. The ending of the story leaves readers with only one response, “How ironic their life is!” The theme of irony in “The Gift of the Magi” is portrayed through a tale of love and sacrifice shared by a young impoverished couple named Jim and Della. Despite their material poverty, their spirits remain affluent. They find happiness in their meager living conditions, as evidenced by the simple act of Della joyfully calling out “Jim” and warmly embracing her husband whenever he returns home.

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Della is always filled with happiness as she searches for the mendicancy squad, where her beloved Jim lives. She is also joyous at the thought of finding a nice and valuable gift for Jim, even though she must be frugal in her dealings with the grocer, vegetable man, and butcher to save every penny. However, fate plays a cruel trick on her. Christmas Day is approaching and she only has one dollar and eighty-seven cents to purchase a gift for Jim. What can she possibly do with such a small amount? The answer seems painfully clear: she must collapse onto the worn-out couch and cry in despair.

She howls, crying in pain. If only they weren’t so poor, if only Jim’s salary were more than $20 per week, if only she had more money… By starting the sentence with “Three times”, O. Henry skillfully conveys Della’s state of mind: a mixture of doubt and hope. It is a possibility that she could be mistaken. Furthermore, the phrase “One dollar and eighty-seven cents” placed between two sentence points confirms that there is no mistake here – she really only has $1.87.

Life is always ruthless, but one can find happiness in planning something nice. For this woman, her eyes shine brilliantly as she gazes into a mirror. An idea strikes her and she decides to sell her beautiful long blonde hair, her only treasure, in order to buy a platinum fob chain. This chain is deemed worthy of The Watch, a cherished possession passed down from Jim’s grandfather and father. Despite her sacrifice, Jim loves Della not for her hair, so there is hope for their future.

Jim states that regardless of her appearance, a haircut, shave, or shampoo will not diminish his love for Della. His love for her is genuine and it compels him to sacrifice all he owns, including his beloved possession – The Watch. However, irony strikes when he discovers the truth. He is stunned by what he witnesses and hears to such an extent that he may not even realize his bewildered response: “You’ve cut off your hair?” and “You said your hair is gone?”

These seemingly silly questions demonstrate that he has not recovered from his shock and still feels sorry for sacrificing for her sake. There is bitterness and sadness in his words, highlighting how heart-wrenching it is when his loving gift for his sweetheart becomes useless. The situation becomes even more heart-wrenching when he witnesses Della tearing open the gift, only to have her screams of joy turn into tears and cries. Additionally, during this time, Della asks Jim to give her his watch to see how the chain would look on it. However, instead of obeying, Jim “tumbles down on the couch, puts his hands under the back of his head, and smiles.”

He did not give her his watch, but he smiled. It seemed as if he believed that life was mocking them, that God was teasing them because his watch had been exchanged for a set of beautiful combs for his beloved Della’s hair. Until this moment, he bitterly declared, “They’re too lovely to use right now. I sold the watch to obtain the money to purchase your combs.” It is only at this point that readers understand why he had been stunned, why he “gazed intently at her” upon returning home from work. The story concludes with an ironic outcome; the heartfelt Christmas gifts they exchange become worthless and unusable.

The irony of life is reflected in their love and sacrifice for each other, which is unquestionable. They are generous lovers who love each other unconditionally, showing limitless care and sacrifice. Despite feeling happy in their small flat, their unselfish love is demonstrated and confirmed through the wonderful gifts they exchange. Nevertheless, they can’t help but feel sorry for the uselessness of these gifts, which should have held great value. This irony may be one of life’s most ironic situations.

Out of love and sacrifice, the most important possessions to Della and Jim are her hair and his watch. Both Della and Jim have a deep affection for Della’s beautiful hair, so much so that it is as desirable as the Queen of Sheba’s locks. Della loves her hair and also loves that Jim admires it. However, when faced with a choice, she decides to sacrifice her beloved hair in exchange for a fob chain for Jim’s cherished watch. Della knows that Jim treasures his fine timepiece but is embarrassed by its worn leather strap, so the fob chain serves as the perfect gift. Sadly, Jim’s watch is now missing.

If only he had not sold it, Jim would cherish his watch as a precious family heirloom. However, he sells it in order to purchase beautiful shell combs for Della’s exceptionally beautiful hair, a significant gift for the upcoming Christmas. Unfortunately, the irony is that Della’s hair is cut short, making the combs useless. Despite each of them sacrificing their most treasured possession to show their love, their sacrifices go unrewarded. This irony is not lost on both Della and Jim, as well as on the readers who witness this tale.

“The Gift of the Magi” depicts the ironic and coincidental moments in Della’s and Jim’s lives. Both of them display their profound love, care, and sacrifice by selling their valuable possessions to enhance the other person’s beauty, bringing them enormous joy and satisfaction. However, their happiness is short-lived as they discover that their sacrifice has been in vain – the gifts they prepare are no longer suitable for each other. The saying “great minds think alike” truly applies to this devoted couple. Not only do they share a deep understanding, but they also possess compassionate hearts. Della demonstrates her love for Jim through her thrifty behavior, haggling with vendors to save every penny daily. Jim exhibits his love for Della through his constant care, comprehension, and selflessness. Their profound love and self-sacrifice set them apart as the wisest individuals of their time. The story concludes with Jim’s decision to sell his watch in exchange for a set of combs for Della’s hair.

The writer of the story wants to convey more than just the plot. It is also about his philosophy of love. A perceptive reader would quickly notice a strong connection between the two main characters and O. Henry himself. Similar to Della and Jim’s unwise sacrifice of their most valuable possessions and ending up in a somewhat clever yet foolish situation, O. Henry, with his deep love for his daughter, consistently found himself facing financial struggles despite giving her “generous Christmas gifts of money”.

Through his own example and story, O. Henry likely aimed to convey a philosophical perspective on love: that love entails making sacrifices in pursuit of happiness. In the story, the two young lovers readily sold their prized possessions to buy gifts for each other, indicating their willingness to make sacrifices for love. Despite experiencing the irony of life and having their unexpected gifts deemed unacceptable, they must have been content individuals. The story also implies that when we are in love, we should wholeheartedly love and trust that our sacrifices for our partner will not be in vain.

Despite becoming useless at the moment, the tortoise combs for Della and the fob chain for Jim served as a testament to their unlimited love and care. This was enough for any couple, including Della and Jim, both today and in the future. However, the text poses a question to readers: why didn’t they save enough money for their Christmas gifts next year? Why didn’t they discuss with each other the gifts they intended to give? If they had been more cautious in their choices, they could have been happier and potentially avoided the ironic twist in their story.

In my opinion, both individuals desire to exchange surprise gifts, intending to enhance their spiritual connection through expressions of love. Additionally, they wish to exhibit intense devotion and selfless sacrifices for one another. Notably, they eagerly anticipate the opportunity to showcase themselves to their partner during Christmas. As the saying goes, “Great minds think alike.” Each person strives to satisfy their loved one and honor their most cherished possessions. Although their thoughts and actions hold immense significance, it is regrettable that the outcome proves insignificant.

Despite their knowledge of each other’s deep love, it is ironic that their valuable gifts go unaccepted. The proverb “actions speak louder than words” applies to this situation, as their actions and concern for each other’s happiness truly showcase their love. They willingly sacrifice their most cherished possessions in hopes of bringing joy to one another. Among all the belongings they possess, James Dillingham Youngs takes immense pride in these two items.

Both Jim and Della hold sentimental value in their possessions. For Jim, it is his gold watch that has been passed down through generations, while for Della, it is her hair. Surprisingly, both of them are willing to give up these cherished belongings for the sake of each other. This act of selflessness demonstrates their profound love and readiness to make sacrifices. However, despite the immense love and sacrifice they show towards one another, their gestures ultimately lose significance. The irony lies in the fact that their lives are filled with such ironies; as they shower each other with love and make sacrifices, their circumstances become even more ironic.

“The Gifts of the Magi” is filled with irony. It begins with a poverty-stricken couple, Jim and Della, who still dream of giving each other love presents. The story’s surprising ending demonstrates this irony and contributes to O. Henry’s success as a writer. In fact, O. Henry goes on to describe Jim and Della as “two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house.” However, this description is actually meant to praise their generosity and love for one another.

The author used the words “foolish” and “unwisely” ironically to highlight the greatness of the individuals being discussed. Their noble thoughts and actions made their gifts highly valued and themselves wise individuals. “But in last word to the wise of these days, let it be said that of all who give gifts these two the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts such as they are wisest. They are the magi.” Throughout the story, readers unintentionally come to realize that O.

Henry skillfully portrays the love, care, and sacrifice that a couple mutually bestows upon one another. The irony of life amplifies their love and sacrifice. Remarkably, it is their heartfelt love and selfless sacrifice for their loved one that ultimately leads to tragedy, an irony unparalleled in the world. The story concludes with an unexpected ironic outcome, leaving readers both astonished and sorrowful for the invaluable contributions the couple has made to each other’s lives. Perhaps, it is this bittersweet culmination that accounts for the resounding success of this poignant love story.

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“The Gift of the Magi” by O Henry. (2018, May 23). Retrieved from


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