Is sacrifice a human weakness in "The Gift of the Magi"?What are the human weaknesses in "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a paradox that is set in the narrative commentary of O. Henry at the end of his story, "The Gift of Magi":

....And her I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each the greatest treasures of their house.  But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest.  Everywhere they are wisest.  They are the Magi.

This paradox exists between the conflicting concepts of Darwinism and Christianity.  In the sense that man engages in the struggle for survival, it is foolish to give up or lose anything that is of value.  On the other hand, with the doctrines of Christianity, which the Magi represent in O. Henry's story, the greatest virtue is love as stated in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, John, St. Paul and others:

But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (Matthew 22:35)

Therefore, according to the Christian O. Henry who lauds the Magi, while it is foolish for Jim to sell a valuable watch and Della to cut her luxuriant hair, in the Christian sense, however, it is a demonstration of the pure love that each has for the other, just as the Magi sacrificed very valuable possessions in order to demonstrate their love and worship of the Christ child.

And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Mark 12:31)

There is none other commandment greater than these. has for the other since there is no greater love than charity. (Mark 12:28)