Irony In The Gift Of The Magi

What is the irony in "The Gift of the Magi"?

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Irony is a literary device that occurs when the author uses elements of the story, like plot or character development, setting, or action to show contrast or the opposite of what the characters or the author may be feeling. 

Here's an example--  In "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner," there is a line that says "Water, water every where, not any drop to drink."  This is an example of irony, because the ship is in the middle of the ocean.  Yes, the crew is surrounded by water, but they can not drink any of it.  Ah, the irony!

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The irony lies in the fact that she cut her hair so that she could afford to buy him a fob chain for his watch.  She was willing to sacrifice something of worth to get him something nice.  When cutting her hair, she made his gift to her useless.  He bought her hair combs to hold up all of her long hair.  Now they are useless.  The irony on top of that is that he sold his watch for money to purchase the expensive combs for her.  This irony is the twist in the plot.  It is then tied into the sotry of the wise men who brought such expensive yet meaningless gifts to show respect, loyalty and admiration to the baby Jesus. What could a baby do with gold? But it was the effort and the sacrifice that counted.  Just as it is in this short story. They both sacrificed something very important to themselves to purchase something special for the other.  That is true love.

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The irony of "The Gift of the Magi" is simple and has been used in many stories since its time, but it is  that of sacrificing something that means the most to you for someone that you love in order to provide them with something that you know that they would love.

In this case, Della sacrifices her hair to buy a chain for Jim's watch; while Jim, in turn, sacrifices his watch to buy combs for Della's hair.

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The self-sacrifice of Jim and Delia is a genuine irony often found in the deepest human relationships. Sacrificing their most precious possessions is a reward of its own because by depriving themselves, they enrich the life of the other person. Irony is also seen because the gifts the couple gives to each other are useless. Delia can't wear her combs in her short hair, and Jim can't use his watch chain without his watch. The young couple learns that the greatest gift of all is their self-sacrificing love.

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