How does being slender help Della in mastering the art in The Gift of the Magi?"There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very...

How does being slender help Della in mastering the art in The Gift of the Magi?

"There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art."

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luannw's profile pic

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

Posted on

The passage refers to the fact that the pier-glass mirror is a long, narrow strip of mirror placed between the windows.  This particular one must have been particularly narrow.  Della is a thin (slender) woman, so her thinness makes it easier for her to see all of herself in the mirror at once.  The apartment that Della and Jim live in is a very cheap apartment because they do not have much money, so the quality of apartment is cheap, too.   The quality of the mirror is, therefore, cheap.  Della has to observe her reflection in narrow strips at a time, so it makes sense that a thin person would be better at seeing her reflection.  That is the "art" referred to in the passage: the art of being able to see one's reflection.

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ronalddonn's profile pic

ronalddonn | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

The pier glass indicates that Della is “slender” in a beautiful way, indicating that she takes pride in herself.  Also, that her relative poverty will turn out to be a positive thing because she counters it with love and adoration for her husband (and he for her). 

As Della is unselfish and knows the value of a gift, ironically, the sacrifice of her pride will be “mirrored” by her husband’s—which is the true “gift of the magi" remarked upon by O'Henry.

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