Do you agree with Jim and Della's sacrifices - giving each other gifts? Are they foolish to sell their favourite possessions?In O. Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi."

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That's the point of the whole story - they are both!

They are perhaps "foolish" not to consult with each other before giving up their most prized possessions, but their love and devotion to each other is worthy of praise and "wise." When O. Henry called them 'the Magi,' perhaps he was also considering the seeming inappropriateness of such rare gifts that the Magi brought to the infant Jesus (actually, about two years after his birth) - gold, frankincense and myrrh. These aren't exactly useful gifts for a child, but they were commemorative of His unique Messianic role, each in a different way:  gold - a precious metal fit for kings; frankincense - a fragrant gum which was burned as incense; myrrh - another rare resin burned as incense in burial ceremonies.

In the same way, Della's and Jim's gifts served no immediate practical purpose but they are symbolic of their love and devotion to each other - the best gift of all.

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like our current era, times were hard during O. Henry's day. It was not uncommon for people to sell their most valued possessions to afford basic necessities such as food, housing, and so forth.

That being said, Della and Jim sell their most valued treasures not out of desperation, but out of love. Their individual selfless acts are what make the story both ironically bittersweet and pointed. Had they not sold the watch and the hair, either of them would be able to enjoy the other's gift, but because they both sold the items, neither is capable of enjoying the gift of the other. And yet, the simple gestures that each performed mean more than the tangible gifts purchased. It is the thought behind the giving that makes Jim and Della "magi."  

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The Gift of the Magi

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