illustration of two people, a woman and a man, looking at one another in profile with an ornate hair comb between them

The Gift of the Magi

by O. Henry
Start Free Trial

In the short story "The Gift of the Magi," what does Della do to get money for Jim's present?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the short story “The Gift of the Magi", it was Christmas time, and Della wanted desperately to get a special Christmas gift for her husband, Jim.  She had saved her pennies and scrounged together $1.87.  She needed a lot more.  What did she have to sell?

“Now,...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In the short story “The Gift of the Magi", it was Christmas time, and Della wanted desperately to get a special Christmas gift for her husband, Jim.  She had saved her pennies and scrounged together $1.87.  She needed a lot more.  What did she have to sell?

“Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride.  One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s.  The other was Della’s hair.  (pg 1)

The only thing of value Della had to sell was her hair. 

“It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her.” (pg 1)

So, she went to a Mne. Sofronie, who dealt in hair goods, and asked how much the woman would pay for her hair. She was offered twenty dollars.  She accepted the offer and immediately went out and bought Jim a beautiful chain to attach to his watch.  It cost her twenty-one dollars, but she knew he would love it. However, she hoped her husband would not find her ugly now because she no longer had her beautiful hair.

O’Henry, the author, wrote irony.  The ironic part of this story is that she sacrificed her hair to buy Jim a chain for his watch, and he sold his watch to buy her some beautiful combs for her long hair.

Posted on