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

Present "The Gift of the Magi" as a universal human predicament that stands the test of time.

Expert Answers

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

"The Gift of the Magi" presents the example of a universal dilemna for all times and locations in human history.

Whenever there have been people in love, there has been the desire to demonstrate that deep affection by presenting gifts intended to reflect the devotion being experienced. Della wanted to find a gift for Jim that would be "Something fine and rare and sterling - something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim."

However, another universal human predicament for many persons is poverty. Lack of financial means can complicate the purchasing of any gift at all, let alone attempting to buy something that can measure up to a profound commitment and love. The conflict in the story revolves around Della's search for a way to overcome this obstacle. As Della tells Jim,

It's sold, I tell you - sold and gone, too....Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered...but nobody could ever count my love for you.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial