The story “The Gift of the Magi” is an ironic tale of a young couple who buy each other gifts they cannot afford, sacrificing to do so. The sacrifice turns out to be in vain, because they each gave up something important in order to buy the gift.
The plan that is upset, on each of their parts, is the Christmas gift. Each assumes that the other will cherish the gift.
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. (enotes etext pdf p. 3)
The ironic part is that Della decides to sell the hair to get the watch. Fate intervenes, because James sells the watch to buy a comb for her hair. Thus both end up with useless gifts.
Though “Delia has never asked for the combs that Jim buys her, but clearly he has seen her face when she has passed the combs in the shop window and has decided that his wife, and his love for her, are more important than his precious keepsake” (enotes, themes). Thus, ironically again, fate intervenes by using the gift exchange to demonstrate their true wealth and love for each other.
For the full text: http://www.enotes.com/gift-magi-text
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Henry, O. "The Gift of the Magi." Enotes.com. Enotes.com. Web. 09 May 2012. <http://www.enotes.com/gift-magi-text>.
"The Gift of the Magi." Enotes.com. Enotes.com. Web. 09 May 2012. <http://www.enotes.com/gift-magi/themes>.