In "The Gift of the Magi," how did Jim and Della prove their love for each other by their foolish acts?

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lsumner's profile pic

lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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In "The Gift of the Magi," Jim and Della prove their amazing love one for the other. Della desires to buy Jim a platinum chain for his golden watch. Jim's watch is an heirloom, passed down to him by his grandfather. Della decides to sell her long, beautiful hair to buy Jim a chain for his watch.

Believing she has the perfect gift, she pays the ultimate price for the chain. She has her long, beautiful hair cut in order to sell it for the money she needs to buy the chain.

While Della is selling her hair, Jim is out selling his watch in order to buy Della beautiful combs for her long, beautiful hair. Jim has no idea that Della has just sold her beautiful hair. He comes home with the gift of beautiful, jeweled combs.

When Jim walks in, he can only stare. He realizes that her hair is gone and she will not be able to use the jeweled combs that he purchased for Della. No doubt, he does feel foolish. He realizes she will not need the combs. Likewise, Della realizes that Jim will not need the chain for he no longer has a watch.

Truly, both Jim and Della realize how foolish their gifts are. They sacrificed thier most prized possessions to buy a gift that each would cherish. No doubt, they are considered the magi because of thier sacrificial giving.  

kellyleastmead's profile pic

kellyleastmead | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Jim and Della prove their love for each other in a highly ironic manner. In " The Gift of the Magi," written by O' Henry, the newly married couple, Jim and Della, do not have much money, but want desperately to get each other gifts for Christmas. Jim and Della do not place stock in material things, as having each other to love is gloriful for them. But, because they want to make each other happy at Christmas, they each, unbeknownst to the other try to find ways to give each other something special, It so happens, that respectively, both only have one material item each that they love. For Della, it is her beautiful long hair, and for Jim, it is a gold pocket watch handed down to him from two generations. The only issue is that Jim does not have a chain for his beloved watch, and so Della has an idea on how to get one for him for Christmas. She cuts off her beautiful long hair and sells it in order to buy Jim a platinum chain for his watch. Ironically, Jim decides to buy Della an array of beautiful hair combs for her lovely hair. There, is situational irony at its best. When they go to present their gifts to each other, they can only look at each other in amazement. There is Della with not enough hair to wear the combs, and Jim with no watch on which to put the chain. Their love is so abiding, that their acts only serve to reinforce how deeply they love each other and what they sacrificed to make each other happy. In the end, what they did only made their love stronger. The story has biblical imagery and metaphor as well.

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