The Gift of the Magi Questions and Answers
by O. Henry

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Convince me that Della and Jim are foolish, and convince me how they are wise in the "Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Della is foolish because she sells what is most precious to her—her long beautiful hair—to buy a Christmas gift for Jim. She should know that if Jim loves her, he won't want her to sacrifice what she loves most for a gift for him. She should know he cares more about her happiness than owning a watch chain.

Likewise, Jim is foolish to sell his beloved watch to buy a comb and brush set for Della. He too should realize that Della loves him so much she would want him to keep what makes him happy more than any gift he could give her.

At that same time, they both are wise in that they intuit that the willingness to sacrifice their own desires to express their love for the other person will bond them closer and cement their relationship. They both understand it is not the gifts themselves but the love behind the gifts that matter; each willingly puts the other person's needs first. They have shown to each other that their marriage is on solid ground and will thrive, regardless of their material circumstances.

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Inuk Lee eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is a good request, because it is always good to look at both sides of the story. 

First, Jim and Della can be seen as foolish, because they are spending money when they are poor. They should be saving their money for potentially hard times that may come in the future. In addition, their exchange of gifts is foolish, because in the end they cannot use what they have given to each other. Della has no more hair for her brushes and Jim has no pocket watch for his chain. In other words, they have given and received useless gifts. 

Second, we can say that they are wise, because there is something more important than receiving and more important than money. They have given themselves and their hearts in sacrifice. This love is the height of wisdom in the end. Perhaps, we can ask a question: "Do you think that Jim and Della were upset at the end of the story?" I think most people would agree that they were supremely happy. Why? It is more blessed to give than to receive. 

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