One of the most famous short stories in American literature, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, is a touching tale of love and sacrifice. The story centers on a young couple, Jim and Della, who are desperately trying to buy each other Christmas gifts with very little money. In the end, they both end up selling their most prized possessions – Della’s hair and Jim’s watch – to buy each other the perfect gifts.
Although “The Gift of the Magi” is a work of fiction, it contains many elements of literary analysis that make it worth studying. For example, the theme of love and sacrifice is evident throughout the story, as Jim and Della give up their most cherished possessions to make each other happy. Additionally, the story is layered with irony, as the gifts that Jim and Della end up buying each other are essentially worthless without the other’s sacrifice.
Overall, “The Gift of the Magi” is a heartwarming story that teaches valuable lessons about love, sacrifice, and the true meaning of Christmas.
The intricacies of the tale, which unfold as it progresses in O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi,” are what keep readers engaged in such a brief amount of pages. The narrative focuses on Jim and Della’s battle with the elements as they try to make ends meet on Christmas Eve at the end of the 19th century in America, when it is notoriously relevant to many individuals’ real-life experiences:
O. Henry first introduces the young couple through Jim’s perspective as he works at a menial job to support Della and their small apartment. The reader is immediately able to sympathize with him as he gripes about his measly $30 a week salary and how it is “hardly enough for board and clothes, let alone rent” (Henry 1). Della, on the other hand, is portrayed as content with what she has despite living in poverty. She has long beautiful hair which she intends to sell in order to buy her husband a chain for his treasured pocketwatch, given to him by his father.
Although Jim and Della are poor, they are rich in love for one another. This is evident when Jim sells his watch to buy combs for Della’s hair and Della cuts off her hair to buy a fob chain for the watch. The selflessness of their actions and the love behind them are what make “The Gift of the Magi” a timeless story that still resonates with readers today.
One could argue that O. Henry’s intention in writing “The Gift of the Magi” was to spread holiday cheer and promote the true meaning of Christmas, which is giving without expecting anything in return. In a time where people are consumed with materialistic things, it is important to be reminded of what is truly important in life. Whether you are rich or poor, young or old, “The Gift of the Magi” is a story that everyone can relate to and learn from.
We are immediately introduced to the initial problem at hand when Della is strapped for cash and wishing to give her wonderful spouse the most exquisite present Christmas Day in order to show her deep affection for him. We’re thrust into a situation where Della has only $1 and some change to spend on Jim, but how can she do it? This is where we enter the major problem of the short story.
Della’s selfless actions to ensure that Jim would have the best Christmas possible ends up being the very thing that makes her realize how much he truly loves her. In a turn of events, it is revealed that Jim had sold his watch in order to buy Della a set of beautiful combs for her hair, which she had recently cut off and sold in order to buy him a chain for his treasured watch. The couple’s love for each other is put on display through their selfless actions and is what ultimately brings them happiness on Christmas day.
A tale, on the other hand, will set up a scenario and then carry out occurrences that lead to a major conflict in a more conventional style. In O. Henry’s unusual approach to telling his story, the narrator places the reader right in the middle of an issue that must be solved. It is said that Jim’s gold watch and Della’s gorgeous tresses of hair, or “torrential stream of brown water” (185), as her locks are known, are the couple’s only two possessions with any value.
What is interesting about these two items is that they are not just simply things that the couple own, but they represent time and beauty. In order to come up with enough money for Christmas presents, Della sells her hair and Jim his watch.
The story does a beautiful job of emphasizing how selfless the act was for each person. Even though it may have been difficult for Della to part with her “cascade of brown waters” because it was such a big part of her femininity and beauty, she did it because she wanted to get Jim the best present possible. In the same way, even though Jim’s gold watch had been passed down to him from his father and grandfather, he sold it so that Della could have a nice present.
Though the couple may not have had the most conventional Christmas, in the end, they both got exactly what they wanted – each other. The story is a beautiful reminder that the best things in life are not always materialistic possessions, but rather the people we love and who love us back.
This, combined with the fact that Jim is leaving town soon and may never return, leads Della to determine, after lengthy sobbing thought, that she must sell her hair in order to obtain enough money to give Jim a gift. Despite the fact that this decision has resolved the initial problem of how Della would get money for her present, it has ultimately caused to the most important narrative conflict: whether or not Jim will like her present or be angry about the expense of it.
When Jim returns home, his first reaction is not one of happiness at the gift or thankfulness to Della for her selflessness, but instead he is angry and confused. Jim’s anger comes from the fact that Della has sold her hair, which was her most prized possession, without consulting him or even telling him what she planned to do. In addition, Jim is worried about how people will react to Della’s new haircut and whether they will make fun of her.
Della’s decision to sell her hair in order to buy Jim a present highlights the theme of selfless love in “The Gift of the Magi”. Though Della is worried about how Jim will react to her haircut, she does not hesitate to make the sacrifice for him. This act of selfless love is reciprocated by Jim, who sells his watch, also his most prized possession, in order to buy Della a present.
The theme of selfless love is further emphasized by the irony in the ending of the story, which reveals that the gifts that Jim and Della bought for each other with their sacrificed possessions are now useless to them. In spite of this, the couple is still happy with their gifts because they know that the true value of the gifts lies not in their material worth, but in the love and thoughtfulness behind them.