In "The Gift of the Magi," whose gift is greater Jim's or Della's?    In "The Gift of the Magi," whose gift is greater Jim's or Della's?        

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Materially speaking, Jim's gift involves more sacrifice since he must somehow earn enough to repurchase the watch, provided it is in a pawn shop.  If it is not, he will have to buy a new one, which may not be as beautiful.  Certainly, the watch has had sentimental value as well.  For Della, her "replacement" will be of no financial cost and will also be much the same since her hair will not change; in fact, the new hair growth may be even prettier than before.

But, of course, neither Jim or Della dwell on this aspect of their gift-giving since they are loving, unselfish people--albeit "foolish" as O. Henry calls them.  So, while Jim's is the greater sacrifice in a manner of speaking, they both have given the "greatest treasures," which are the unselfish sacrifice of each other's most prized possessions.  And, therefore, they are both "the Magi."

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Determining whether Jim or Della gave the "greater" gift in The Gift of the Magi absolutely misses the point of the story. They both were motivated by their love and devotion for the other to sacrifice their greatest individual treasure in order to give a present worthy of its recipient.

Of course, the result of these actions was that neither present could be put to immediate use. Della could not use the combs because she no longer had her long hair. Jim could not use the watch chain because he no longer had the watch.

You could make a case that Jim made the greater sacrifice - the watch will need to be repurchased with money that may be difficult for them to save, while Della's hair will grow back on its own.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to agree with post #9 that Jim's gift is greater, since he sold his watch and may never be able to own such a fine watch again. Also it was a family heirloom, which makes the loss more painful. On the other hand, Della is young and her hair will grow back. Eventually she will be able to wear the combs her husband bought her, but he will likely never be able to use the fob she bought him. Della probably enjoyed cultivating her long, beautiful hair, and she can experience that pleasure all over again. (In the meantime I should think it would be a pleasure to get rid of all that hair. "It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her.")

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
One gift wasn't greater than the other. That's the point of the story. Both Della and Jim gave the gift of love. Since love is the greatest gift of all, one gift can't be better than the other. The material gifts they gave can be returned and Jim's watch can be repurchased. Of course, Della's hair can't be repurchased, but it can be regrown. The whole idea is that self-sacrifice is a worthy gift. Della and Jim both made a sacrifice that was the most they had to give. Della was extremely proud of her hair and Jim was very sentimental about his watch. I'm not sure you can say either was better than the other even among the material gifts.
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I completely agree with both of the above posts when they say that picking whose gift is better misses the point of the story.

If you have to pick, though, you could argue that Della makes the bigger sacrifice because she might be personally impacted by her loss on a day-to-day basis.  People aren't going to notice that Jim doesn't have his watch.  But they will notice that Della's hair is gone and they might (depending on how her new hairdo looks) make fun of her openly or in secret.  She'll be much more self-conscious as she goes about her daily routine.  Jim will not.


Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To me, this question is like asking which child a parent loves more. There is no real measure for sacrifice and love, so the question is not particularly answerable. They each gave up something they valued to give something they knew they other would value. To that extent, they are equal--just like parents treat each of their children a bit differently but equally.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Perhaps the question here should be whose gift had a bigger personal impact. Della's sacrifice was one with which she had to live socially and personally. A woman's hair was her crowning glory, and to get rid of it would have caused personal and social awkwardness for Della.

hubbabubba998 | Student

i think jim's gift is greater as he has a gold watch which has been passed on to him from his grandfather but della's hair can grow back! so ya i think jim's gift is more valuable

phantomdark | Student
In "The Gift of the Magi," whose gift is greater Jim's or Della's?    

In "The Gift of the Magi," whose gift is greater Jim's or Della's?





Jim's gift is greater because Jim cannot get his watch back but Della's hair will grow back soon. The point is Della can use the gift she got but JIm cannot.