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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jim and Della Young are compared to the magi in their giving one to another:

Jim and Delia have two possessions of which they are both proud. One is Jim's gold watch, which has been handed down from his grandfather. The other is Delia's hair, lustrous, shining, and falling past her knees. 

Della sells her hair to buy Jim a platinum chain for his watch. Jim sells his watch to buy Della fine combs for her hair. These two characters give unselfishly one to another. They prove an untarnished love. Although neither can use the gift that each bought one for the other, the sacrifice made for each gift goes beyond words in expression. 

Jim could not have ever expected Della to sacrifice her hair. She gave with a love that is expressed as similar to the giving of the magi to the Christ child. No greater expression of giving is there. Jim's giving is compared to the ultimate sacrifice which can be compared to the sacrificial giving of the magi to the precious Christ child.

O. Henry compared Jim's and Della's giving to the way the magi gave to the Christ child and rightly so. If the reader could learn to give so unselfishly, no one would be in need. Jim and Della are considered the perfect example of a couple who knows how to give one to the other:

The narrator explains that the wise men, or magi, brought gifts to the baby Jesus and so invented the giving of Christmas gifts. Because these men were wise, they no doubt gave wise gifts. Delia and Jim, the narrator asserts, have unwisely sacrificed their most precious possessions. Yet, because they gave from the heart, they are wise: "They are the magi."