What is the historical background of "The Gift of the Magi"?O. Henry short story

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

O. Henry did not allude to the historical period which was the setting of his short stories directly because many of the relationships of characters are timeless; in addition, none of the external happenings of the times are very relevant to his stories.  However, the story of Jim and Della probably is set in New York in the early 1900s, a time when money was scare with the federal debt brought about by the San Francisco earthquake.

His short story "The Gift of the Magi"has a title which alludes to the visitation of the wise men, or magi, who brought gifts to the baby savior two millenniums ago.  The Magi are a metaphor for Jim and Della  Besides this biblical allusion, there are two others:  that of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. Famous for her wealth and beauty, Queen Sheba, having heard of Solomon's reputation for wisdom and gold, tested him with hard questions.  In the story, Della's beautiful tresses are compared to the loveliness of Sheba's hair, and King Solomon's treasures are set in contrast to the beauty of Jim's watch.

madihaa | Student
This article is about the short story. For the Magi that visited baby Jesus, see Biblical Magi. "The Gift of the Magi"

"The Gift of the Magi" is a short story written by O. Henry (a pen name for William Sydney Porter), about a young married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. As a sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving, it has been a popular one for adaptation, especially for presentation during theChristmas season. The plot and its "twist ending" are well-known, and the ending is generally considered an example of situational irony. It was allegedly written at Pete's Tavern on Irving Place in New York City.