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In O'Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi," another theme that is present but that exists in tandem with love is that of sacrifice for others. Jim and Della don't have much in life, but they each do have one prized possession: Della has beautiful hair that would be the envy and prize of any woman, and Jim has a fine gold watch that is a prized family heirloom. Each desires to give the other a gift that will enhance the treasured possession of the other.
With Christmas approaching, Della finds that she hasn't managed to save enough of their meager income to purchase the gift she wants for Jim, so she makes the painful decision to sell her hair to supplement what she has. This is a difficult decision because it means not only that she will have short, unremarkable hair, but she is also concerned that Jim will not find her attractive anymore. She is willing to sacrifice her hair and open herself up to insecurities, however, because of her deep, abiding love for him.
Jim has watched his beloved wife admire a set of hair combs on numerous occasions, and he desperately wishes to give them to her for Christmas. However, when finances fall short, he chooses to sacrifice his treasured watch to give Della her unspoken heart's desire. This was a great sacrifice, for though he may someday have a fine watch again, no other would hold the sentimental value and family history that his does.
Much has been written and discussed concerning whose sacrifice was the greatest, but in the end it doesn't matter which gift we judge to have the greatest value. Each unselfishly gave the one thing that was most precious - nothing could have been harder for each of them to set aside for the love of one another.
Another theme is sacrifice. Each of the characters in the story sacrifices a prized possession for the other.
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