In "The Gift of the Magi" How does O.Henry define wisdom? O.Henry says of these "two foolish children" that they were "the wisest." I didn't get how he defines...

In "The Gift of the Magi" How does O.Henry define wisdom?

 O.Henry says of these "two foolish children" that they were "the wisest." I didn't get how he defines wisdom; they are foolish and wise at the same timee? HELP

Asked on by maya-r

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writergal06's profile pic

writergal06 | Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

Its a paradox, a statement that seems to be contradictory but does in fact contain truth. Most people would see their actions as foolist; they gave up their most valuable possessions to buy gifts that were rendered useless. It seems that they acted rashly, like children. The reason that they are the wisest, though, is because they realize that some things are more important than material possessions, like love. They were both self-sacrificing, putting the happiness of the one they loved first. In essence, they got what is really important in life. That's why they are wise.

engtchr5's profile pic

engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

"...These are the wisest," O. Henry says at the short story's end; "They are the magi." He is referring here to Jim and Della, who were wise enough to see past themselves and their own importance to give something of real worth to another. While their actions resulted in unfavorable outcomes for both, the generosity of their selfless giving is what made them "wise" in the opinion of the author.

By story's end, Della had sold her beautiful hair to buy Jim's watch chain, and Jim had likewise sold his treasured watch for Della's hair combs. The situation may have seemed like a stalemate, but in fact, O. Henry tells us that their sacrifices were what made them "wise" or "magi."

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