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What is the theme of the story "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry?

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kethi | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted June 29, 2012 at 8:26 AM via web

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What is the theme of the story "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry?

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sweetrinky | Student, Grade 10 | Honors

Posted June 29, 2012 at 11:24 AM (Answer #1)

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the theme of the story "the gift of magi" is that the greatest gift we can recieve is not any material but a feeling that is the "gift of love". it teaches us the bondge of unconditional love where we dont look at our posessions but are ready to sacrifice for our loved ones..della sells her beautiful hair in order to gift jim and jim sells his gold watch to gift della the beautiful set of combs but when they find their gifts to turn useless. they rejoice in their own estate  and this proves their true love for each other. we also find the story revolving around wealth and poverty

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 29, 2012 at 7:22 PM (Answer #2)

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There are three main themes defined within O. Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi."

Love

The theme of love is shown through the selfless actions of both Della and Jim. Each, through a showing of love for the other, sells their most valuable possessions in order to purchase Christmas gifts for their spouse. Della sells her hair in order to buy Jim a chain for his watch. Jim, on the other hand, sells his watch in order to buy Della combs for her hair. Therefore, the theme of love is shown through the fact that each love the other more than their most prized possessions.

Generosity

Similar to the theme of love, the generous nature of both Della and Jim is evident. While each loves their prized possessions, Della's hair and Jim's watch, each are willing to sell their possessions in order to make the other happy. Although they are poor, they are both rich in their generosity for the other.

Wealth and Poverty

The concepts of wealth and poverty are important themes in the story as well. While financially poor, Della and Jim prove to be emotionally rich. The love they have for each other overshadows their poverty.

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iqratariq | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted June 29, 2012 at 6:54 PM (Answer #3)

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the theme of "the gift of magi" is sacrifice. both the characters sacrifice their precious things for one another. they love one another more than materialistics things though they are expensive. they sell those things(watch and hair) to show their love and so find out the true love that is not in things or gifts but the feeling they have for each other. so the themes are sacrifice and eternal love.

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suprabhatdas | Student, Grade 10 | Honors

Posted June 30, 2012 at 1:03 AM (Answer #4)

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In this short story, O.Henry focuses mainly on three great themes - those of poverty, generosity, and most important of all - love. In this writing, whose title is an allusion to the gift of the three wise men to Jesus when he was born, the author clearly shows the value of personal affection and the true meaning of giving gifts. In short, the main idea is that the best gift is that which is most sincere and comes from the bottom of the heart instead of an extravagant, lavish possession that would bring nothing to the warmth of the human relationship. The author's idea is especially emphasized when both of the main characters discover that what they had received would not be of any use to them. In this way, the gifts that the two loving spouses give each other become symbols of the passionate love that they feel for each other and that will never be extinguished by their poverty. That is, what is material and indeed lacking in their world steps even farther back to let the reader understand that those two souls have given and received the wisest and most precious gift - that of human emotion and affection. 

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O. Henry was the pen name for William Sydney Porter the prolific writer of nearly 300 short stories. Among his short stories, The Gift of the Magi is possibly the most well-known. Its enduring appeal can be traced to the universal themes of wealth, poverty, and generosity wrapped together by the selfless love of the two main characters, Jim and Della Young.

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