“The Gift of the Magi”
“The Gift of the Magi” by O.Henry was first published in 1906. It is a short story about a poor young couple whose love for each other is so great that they are led to sacrifice their most valuable possessions to find Christmas gifts for each other – Della sells her hair to be able to buy a chain for her husband Jim’s watch, and Jim sells his watch to buy combs for Della. In their willingness to sacrifice all they have, they prove themselves the wisest of all gift-givers, akin the magi, the three kings who brought the wisest gifts to baby Jesus.
Jim and Della’s poverty forces them to make the sacrifices they do and makes those sacrifices meaningful. O.Henry sketches the cheap, eight-dollar flat, in which the couple ...view middle of the document...
Della’s love for her husband seems to have no boundaries; so great is her desire to please “her Jim” that she is willing to sell the only precious thing she owns, her hair, to be able to buy “something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim” (1). Her hair is so gorgeous that it would inspire envy in Queen Sheba, but Della sells it to buy a chain for Jim’s watch: “It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation – as all good things should do” (2). In Della’s eyes, the real value of the chain comes not from the flashy appearance but rather from the quality and purity of the material it is made of. This is how she sees Jim as well – simple, modest, and unassuming but of great worth.
Jim is devoted to Della as much as she is to him. He sells his watch to buy Della a set of combs she was admiring in the shop window. His watch could be the envy of King Solomon, but he does not think twice when it comes to sacrificing his only worthy possession for his wife. It is more important for him to make his loved one happy, the way she makes him feel loved and appreciated: “But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young” (1).
Della and Jim, despite lacking material treasures, are as rich as King Solomon and Queen Sheba, because they have each other’s love. They are likewise as wise as the magi, who delivered “the wisest” gifts to Jesus on the first Christmas because their gift to each other is selfless love.