How does Jim react when he first sees Della after she has cut her hair in O. Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi"?   

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just before Jim arrives home from work Della says a little prayer: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty." Della has just sold her beautiful hair (her prized possession) in order to buy a watch chain for Jim's watch (his most prized possession).

Della is apprehensive about Jim's reaction to her new look. When he arrives home, O. Henry uses a simile to describe the look on Jim's face: "Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail." O. Henry further remarks that Jim was neither "surprised," "horrified" or in a state of "disapproval." Della's appearance simply puts Jim into a "trance." Two things must have gone through his head. First, his wife has cut off her beautiful hair and, second, the new "tortoise shell" combs he has bought are not as appropriate as they once were. Nevertheless, he still loves her as he remarks,

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But, if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going at first."

Jim's reaction has more to do with the revelation about the combs than any positive or negative reaction to Della's hair. The point of the story is that this couple have overwhelming love for each other that goes beyond physical beauty. They are willing to sacrifice their most prized possessions to demonstrate that love.