What does "parsimony", "imputation" and "predominating" mean in "The Gift of Magi"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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These three pieces of vocabulary occur in the first two paragraphs of the story. First we are told that Della is only able to save the money she has to buy Jim a present through the "silent imputation of parsimony" that haggling so carefully indicates. This means the suggestion of stinginess that is obvious by the way that Della is forced to be so careful with her pennies.

Secondly, Della reflects that life is made up of "sobs, sniffles and smiles, with sniffles predominating," which means that out of the three, sniffles occur the most. This is a sad reflection on the state of life that Della and Jim are forced to live - because of their poverty, every day is a struggle to make ends meet and luxuries such as Christmas presents, which of course is a key aspect of this excellent short story, are way above what they are able to afford.

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