Mon. Jun 17th, 2024
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Introduction to The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry :

“The Gift of the Magi” is a short story written by O. Henry, and first published in 1905. It’s a touching tale about a young married couple, Jim and Della Young, who want to give each other special Christmas gifts despite having little money. Their love and sacrifices for each other reveal the true meaning of giving.

  • O. Henry, whose real name was William Sydney Porter, was an American writer famous for his witty and surprising endings. Born in 1862, he worked in various jobs before becoming a writer.
  • His stories often feature ordinary people and are known for their clever twists and heartfelt messages. “The Gift of the Magi” is one of his most famous works, showcasing his talent for storytelling and deep understanding of human emotions.

Most memorable characters of this story:

Della Young:

Della is a young, devoted wife who is deeply in love with her husband, Jim. She is characterized by her selflessness and willingness to sacrifice her most prized possession—her long, beautiful hair—to buy a special Christmas gift for Jim. Della is resourceful and determined, showing great emotional depth and love in her actions.

Jim Young:

Jim is Della’s husband and is equally devoted to her. He works long hours for modest pay but is thoughtful and caring. Like Della, Jim is willing to part with his most valued possession—his gold pocket watch—to buy a meaningful gift for Della. His actions reflect his deep love and commitment to making her happy.

Madame Sofronie:

Madame Sofronie is the owner of a hair goods shop where Della sells her hair. She is a minor character in the story, described as a large, white, chilly woman. Her role is crucial as she facilitates Della’s sacrifice by buying her hair.

Plot summary:

“The Gift of the Magi” is a heartwarming story about a young married couple, Jim and Della Young, who are very much in love but struggle financially. As Christmas approaches, each wants to give the other a special gift, but they have very little money.

Della’s most prized possession is her long, beautiful hair, which falls past her knees. Jim treasures his gold pocket watch, a family heirloom. To buy Jim a gift, Della decides to sell her hair to a wig maker for $20.

With this money, she buys a fine platinum fob chain for Jim’s watch, believing it to be the perfect gift.

Meanwhile, Jim also wants to give Della a meaningful gift. He sells his beloved pocket watch to buy a set of elegant combs for Della’s hair, which she has long admired.

On Christmas Eve, they exchange gifts and realize the irony of their sacrifices: Della no longer has her long hair for the combs, and Jim no longer has his watch for the chain. Despite this, they are filled with love and appreciation for each other’s selflessness.

The story concludes with the reflection that their acts of giving make them wise, like the magi who brought gifts to the baby Jesus, highlighting the true spirit of giving.

"But in a last word to the wise of these days, let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi."

Most Important themes:

Love and Sacrifice

The central theme of the story is the profound love that Jim and Della have for each other, demonstrated through their willingness to sacrifice their most cherished possessions. Their actions show that true love often involves selflessness and personal sacrifice.

Value and Wealth

The story challenges the conventional notions of value and wealth. While Jim and Della are financially poor, their actions reveal that they are rich in love and generosity. Their most valuable possessions are not the material items they trade away but their love and devotion to one another.


The story employs situational irony, where the outcome is the opposite of what the characters intended. Both Jim and Della sell their prized possessions to buy something that complements the other’s prized possessions, rendering their gifts practically useless. This irony underscores the depth of their love and the sacrifices they make.

The True Spirit of Giving

The narrative reflects on the essence of giving. It suggests that the true spirit of giving lies not in the material value of the gift but in the thought and sacrifice behind it. Jim and Della’s gifts, though materially rendered useless, symbolize their selfless love and commitment.

Wisdom and Foolishness

The story draws a parallel between Jim and Della and the magi, who were wise men. Although Jim and Della’s actions might seem foolish because they render their gifts useless, O. Henry concludes that they are wise because they understand the true meaning of love and giving. This juxtaposition highlights that wisdom in love often looks like foolishness to the world.

Read more: Short Stories; Definition, Elements, and History


“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry remains a timeless masterpiece that continues to captivate readers with its heartfelt portrayal of love, sacrifice, and the true spirit of giving. Through the simple yet profound story of Jim and Della Young, O. Henry challenges conventional notions of wealth and value, reminding us that true richness lies in the depth of our relationships and the sacrifices we are willing to make for those we love.

By Romana

Hi everyone I'm Romana the creator of "Literaturebs.Online". I've always had a passion for stories, so I decided to build this space to share my love of literature with fellow bookworms like you. From classic novels to modern masterpieces, I hope to inspire and engage readers of all ages. Join me as we embark on a journey through the wonderful world of words!"

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