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In "The Gift of the Magi," in what ways are Jim and Della foolish? In what ways are...

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mandy9512 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 29, 2012 at 6:38 PM via web

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In "The Gift of the Magi," in what ways are Jim and Della foolish? In what ways are they wise? How is it possible for them to be both foolish and wise?

O. Henry describes Jim and Della as “two foolish children” in “The Gift of the Magi.” He also describes them as “the wisest of all.”

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writergal06 | Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted November 29, 2012 at 8:57 PM (Answer #1)

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O. Henry is known for his ironic turns and surprise endings, and this story is no exception. The audience knows that Della has sold her hair. We know that it is her most prized possession, but that she willingly gives it up to give Jim a gift worthy of his wonderful pocket-watch. What we don't know until the end is that Jim has sold his pocket-watch to buy Della a gift worthy of her beautiful hair. 

The narrator calls these two "foolish children," claiming that they "most unwisely sacrificed...the greatest treasures of their house." They are called foolish for parting with items of such great value to them.

They are also called the wisest of gift-givers and receivers, and the wisest everywhere. This is because of how they gave gifts -- sacrificially. O. Henry uses a paradoxical statement here to drive home his theme -- true gift-giving requires sacrifice. Financially, they are foolish. Already very poor, the give up the most valuable possessions they have. Relationally, they are wise, because they parted with the items for the sake of another's happiness. 


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