In "The Gift of the Magi," by O. Henry, describe the main character Della.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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A story with a twist at the end—that explains one of the main qualities of O. Henry’s writing style, particularly "The Gift of the Magi."  Considered to be one of the  great American short story authors, his stories are playful with an optimistic sense of humor. They are also often written in a uniquely oral style, as if the narrator or O. Henry himself were telling the tale in person.

The protagonist in the story is Della Young. She is a homemaker.  Her life circulates around her husband Jim.  Della is a loving, warm, selfless, and sometimes hysterical lady of the house. Della and Jim are financially poor. They live in a small flat in New York City. She has spent many hours leading up to Christmas just thinking about Jim’s present.

Devoted describes Della. She lives for her husband.  This would seem extreme except that Jim is just as dedicated to her. When it is discovered that they each of sold their most prized possession, then it is clear what the title of the story means: their selflessness makes them wise givers like the magi. This is the lesson that O. Henry wants the reader to understand which the meaning of giving is.

One other characteristic stands out about Della. She is very excitable and emotional.  Remember that she is very young.  O. Henry may have used her excessive emotions as means of humor and also to show what it meant to be feminine in 1906. It adds to her likability and shows her head over heels love for Jim.  Her mood swings from the heights of happiness to the depths of despair indicate a sweet, lovely girl who loves her man.

Della has beautiful hair which is dark brown and falls below her knees.

Had the Queen of Sheba lived in their building, Della would have let her hair hang out the window to dry just to reduce the value of the queen's jewels.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her, shining like a brown waterfall. It reached below her knees and made itself almost like a covering for her.

This is one of Jim’s favorite traits of Della.

The young woman is facing a typical problem. She wants to buy the perfect present for her husband; unfortunately, she only has $1.87. She has been saving for months.  Yet, with Jim’s cut in pay and expenses, that is all she has.  She has been dreaming of buying him this gift. Now, what will she do?

Della makes a personal decision that is very difficult.  She goes to a woman who buys hair and sells her fabulous locks for twenty dollars. This will enable her to buy Jim’s gift. Her hair will grow back.  Now she worries about Jim still thinking she is pretty.

What a well-crafted story that makes the reader wonder what happens to this amazing, loving couple! Does he get his watch back and does her hair grow back just as beautiful as it was?


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