How much were Jim and Della aware of their economic condition?

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In O. Henry's classic short story "The Gift of the Magi," both Jim and Della are well aware of their depressing financial situation. At the beginning of the story, Della counts her $1.87, which she has managed to save by exercising frugality whenever she does her weekly shopping. The narrator mentions that Della managed to save the money by "bulldozing" the grocer and butcher and carefully saving every penny. Given Della's frugality and close attention to her spending habits, one could argue that the couple is well aware of their economic condition. Della understands that she cannot simply borrow money for Christmas gifts because her husband's income is only twenty dollars and they would not be able to pay it back. She also understands that she cannot spend freely and recognizes the importance of haggling for prices and maintaining a tight budget.

Despite their dire economic condition, both characters desire to purchase an expensive, worthy Christmas present for each other. In order to come up with enough money to buy Jim a valuable watch fob for his family heirloom, Della sells her beautiful locks of hair. Ironically, Jim sells his beloved watch to purchase Della an expensive set of combs. The fact that both characters realized that they must sacrifice their most valuable possessions to buy their significant other a worthy gift illustrates their financial awareness. Parting with their beloved possessions was not easy but Della and Jim recognized that it was the only way to come up with enough money to buy quality gifts.

Another significant piece of evidence that proves Jim and Della were aware of their economic condition takes place once Della opens Jim's gift. Upon looking at the combs, the narrator mentions,

They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. (O. Henry, 4)

The fact that Della never had the "least hope of possession" reveals that she is aware of her economic condition.

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