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The Gift of the Magi

by O. Henry

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How does "The Gift of the Magi" relate to today's society?

"The Gift of the Magi" relates to today's society in that it shows us that love trumps materialism. This is a particularly important consideration in a society that is seen to be much more materialistic than the one in which the story is set.

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The Gift of the Magi” relates to today’s society because although watch fobs and hair combs may be less common than they once were, the desire for unconditional love is not. In today's society, we need our loved ones more than ever, and I would argue that this story’s primary theme is love.

When Jim sells his watch to raise the money to buy hair combs for Della, he displays a type of sacrificial love that everyone aspires to have—whether in 1905, when this story was published, or today. Della displays the same kind of love for Jim when she sells her hair for the funds required to buy his watch chain.

Love and relationships are timeless themes, and the lesson that is taught in this short story is just as applicable today as it was over a century ago. In a nutshell, the lesson is that the ultimate gift is not a material item but sacrifice. Jim and Della both prove that they are willing to give up their most valuable possession in order to make the other one happy.

With many people experiencing financial hardship, this story is a relatable reminder that if we put our minds to it, there is always a way to help others.

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Although written over a hundred years ago, O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" still enjoys contemporary relevance. That is because, like all good stories, its themes are universal, meaning that it transcends the historical and social conditions in which it was written.

The abiding theme of the story is indeed universal: that when it comes to the act of gift giving, it's the thought that counts and not the material value of the gift. In the story, Jim and Della end up giving each other useless gifts, but in the overall scheme of things, it doesn't much matter, because there was a lot of love behind the giving of those gifts.

In their own way, Jim and Della understand the true meaning of Christmas. It's not about giving expensive gifts or trying to impress people; it's about the expression of love.

Their example is one from which we could learn in this day and age. Contemporary society is much more materialistic than the one in which the story is set. In an age of instant gratification and the wide availability of credit cards, people want expensive items and they want them now.

Among other things, this attitude can be said to distort the true meaning of Christmas as exemplified by the gift-giving of Jim and Della. That being the case, we might like to take a leaf out of their book and put a little more love into the gifts that we give.

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On the more pessimistic side of things, I wonder how many people are able to be content with simple, heartfelt gifts.  It seems we live in the "gimme" society, though things have been generally more difficult recently.  I wonder, too, how willing people today are to sacrifice as Jim and Della did. 

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This story contains a great lesson for younger children, as well (in fact, it appears in cartoon version in a Disney holiday movie).  These days, it seems like Christmas wish lists and sending Santa a list of demands dominate the pre-Christmas season.  Jim and Delia teach us that the gifts people appreciate the most are the gifts that demonstrate love.  My husband and I have tried to teach our children that we buy them gifts at Christmas because we love them, but we are not going to go overboard to "buy" their love with a ridiculously large number of gifts. 

When you give someone something that means something to you, or something that causes you a personal sacrifice, it means more to them than if you just buy them something at a store.  Jim and Delia show us that during the holidays and any time we should put others before ourselves and always look for ways to show our loved ones how much we care about them.

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Because the United States is slowly reeling toward a state of financial depression, and many people are feeling the economic effects of this, there is one big lesson to be taken from Gift of the Magi that could apply to today's society:

No matter how bad things are financially, no matter how strapped someone might be for cash, there is always the possibility for ultimate generosity. Even though Jim and Della are comparatively poor, they find a way to sacrifice their most prized possessions to demonstrate their love for one another. In the end, their acts of generosity result in bittersweet irony, but the value of the emotions behind the gifts is not diminished in the least. This is why they are considered "magi," or wise ones.

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The lessons in The Gift of the Magi are timeless and relevant in every generation.  The message of the story refers to the over commercialism of the Christmas holiday which secular society has sanitized, removing the birth of Jesus Christ, the reason for the holiday. All traces are prevented from being openly acknowledged to satisfy a small number who desire  to neutralize the presence of religion in American society.

Christmas is not about buying gifts, expensive or small, it is about welcoming the Son of God into the human world. Even though the birth of Christ is exploited by every store as a way to boost sales, most store clerks are not allowed to say Merry Christmas, they MUST say Happy Holidays. Yet, Christmas is a legal holiday. 

The story accurately relates the purity of Jim and Delia's love and how they don't need expensive gifts to celebrate Christmas.  Jim and Delia symbolize the sacrificial love that God felt for his children and sent his only Son to save.

The meaning of Christmas should be restored to our society, and respected, Christmas is a federal holiday because of its significance to the United States of America, a country founded on the Judeo/Christian principles.

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