What are the development conflicts in the main characters in "The Gift of the Magi''?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conflict in "The Gift of the Magi," stems from the condition of poverty, material poverty in which Jim and Delia live.  Jim and Delia do not have much money, although Jim works, they cannot afford to buy Christmas presents for each other.  

Both Jim and Delia decide that they will sell their most prized possession in order to obtain money to buy the other a Christmas present.  Even though Delia treasures her long beautiful, she is willing to sacrifice it in order to get money to buy a gift for her husband.

 "But O. Henry makes Delia's happiness in her love for Jim quite clear: "Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling—something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim."

They sacrifice the material possession that they value in order to use the money obtained to buy a Christmas present.  For Jim, it involves selling his grandfather's watch, for Delia, it involves selling her beautiful long hair. 

"But Jim clearly values his young wife more than his gold watch, because he sells it in order to buy her a set of beautiful, jewel-edged tortoiseshell combs for her long hair."

Delia buys Jim a chain for his watch with the money she got for selling her hair.  Jim buys Delia beautiful tortoise shell combs that she has admired for her long hair.

The conflict comes full circle when they both realize that, especially Jim, when he sees his wife's short hair, that their gifts are now useless.  They don't even open the gifts they made such great sacrifices to buy.  It doesn't matter, because Jim and Delia have what really matters in life, a deep love.