O. Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi" is about a young couple, Jim and Della, living in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. O. Henry's stories featured ironic, surprise endings and this story is no exception.
At the opening of the story it is Christmas time and Della is counting her money. She is distraught because she only has one dollar and eighty seven cents and even though things were much cheaper in those days it is not nearly enough to buy a suitable gift for her husband.
O. Henry tells us the couple has "two possessions...in which they took mighty pride." One was Jim's gold watch and the other Della's beautiful hair, which is described as "rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters." Della takes immense pride in her hair and it is one of the couple's treasures. In an exhibition of true love, Della sells her prized possession to a wig maker for $20 so she can buy an expensive "platinum fob chain" for Jim's watch.
In the story's ironic ending the reader finds out that Jim has sold his watch to purchase beautiful tortoise shell combs for Della's hair. The two have sacrificed their most important material possessions to show their love.