What is the theme of the story “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry?

The most prominent theme in “The Gift of the Magi” is love. Jim and Della are willing to part with their most prized possessions to make each other happy, demonstrating that a wealth of love makes up for material poverty. Some additional themes are generosity, selflessness, and poverty.

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Most people are aware of the expression “It's the thought that counts,” meaning that it's not what you give that matters but the thought behind it. And this longstanding truism undoubtedly constitutes one of the main themes of “The Gift of the Magi” by O.Henry.

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Most people are aware of the expression “It's the thought that counts,” meaning that it's not what you give that matters but the thought behind it. And this longstanding truism undoubtedly constitutes one of the main themes of “The Gift of the Magi” by O.Henry.

Both the characters in the story, Della and Jim, inadvertently give each other worthless gifts for Christmas. Della buys Jim a chain for his watch by using the proceeds from selling her hair to an upscale salon. At the same time, Jim, blissfully unaware of what Della has done, buys his wife a set of fancy combs using the money he received from selling his watch. Each wanted to give the other something special for Christmas, but now they've both been lumbered with things they can't actually use.

But in the final analysis, none of this matters. In giving each other worthless gifts, Jim and Della may not have been wise; but, as the narrator points out, they nonetheless showed wisdom in selling the most valuable thing they owned in order to buy a gift for the other. This is because Della and Jim know that, when it comes to the act of gift-giving, it's the thought that counts.

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The central theme of “The Gift of the Magi” is explicitly discussed at the end of the story, when the author addresses the reader directly, relating his characters to the wise men in the Bible. This theme is the true nature of wisdom. The three men who brought gifts to the infant Jesus are described as “wonderfully wise,” and the author goes on to say that this means “their gifts were doubtless wise ones.” This presents a contrast with Della and Jim, who have been unwise in sacrificing their most precious possessions to buy gifts which have turned out to be useless from a practical point of view.

In terms of practical wisdom, therefore, Della and Jim are foolish. However, there is a higher wisdom, which consists of loving another person more than oneself. These young people are wise enough to know that possessing a fine-looking watch or having long, lustrous hair are trivial matters. These material things were never as precious as their love for one another. In the final paragraph, the author first says that Jim and Della “were not wise,” then conducts a swift volte-face in his “last word to the wise of these days.” By this he means the type of practical people who might be inclined to sneer at Della and Jim for their folly. Such people, in the words of Oscar Wilde, know “the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Della and Jim are wise because they understand what truly matters.

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In "The Gift of the Magi," O. Henry frames love through a lens of self-sacrifice. Both Della and Jim give up their own dearest possession in order to purchase a gift for the other. In doing so, O. Henry determines that the spirit in which these gifts were given proves far more powerful and profound than the content of the gifts themselves.

As the story begins, Della is wanting to purchase a Christmas present for her husband. The problem, however, is that they are poor, and she does not have enough money to purchase a gift. As O. Henry proceeds to tell us, both Della and Jim have possessions which they treasure above all others: for Jim, it is his watch, and for Della, it is her hair. To acquire the money to buy Jim a present, Della sells her hair and later uses that money to purchase a chain for her husband's watch.

Meanwhile (unbeknownst to Della), Jim has made a similar sacrifice, selling his prized watch in order to purchase a set of combs for his wife. In that respect, the ending is an ironic one. However, in the end, the gifts themselves are far less important than the spirit in which they were given and the sacrifice that went into them—qualities which prove far more valuable than material possessions.

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There are three main themes defined within O. Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi."

Love

The theme of love is shown through the selfless actions of both Della and Jim. Each, through a showing of love for the other, sells their most valuable possessions in order to purchase Christmas gifts for their spouse. Della sells her hair in order to buy Jim a chain for his watch. Jim, on the other hand, sells his watch in order to buy Della combs for her hair. Therefore, the theme of love is shown through the fact that each love the other more than their most prized possessions.

Generosity

Similar to the theme of love, the generous nature of both Della and Jim is evident. While each loves their prized possessions, Della's hair and Jim's watch, each are willing to sell their possessions in order to make the other happy. Although they are poor, they are both rich in their generosity for the other.

Wealth and Poverty

The concepts of wealth and poverty are important themes in the story as well. While financially poor, Della and Jim prove to be emotionally rich. The love they have for each other overshadows their poverty.

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Another theme is the material value or materialism. Here these folks are economically stretched. When they each give up an item for the other, it happens to be the most important item or object in the world to them. This shows that their relationship is of more value than things which is a strong point O. Henry is trying to make.

On the flip side, as each receive an item from each other because the items required to use the new gifts are gone, they have absolutely no value. So now, rather than them both having something they value, what they have materially is worthless and all they are left with is their relationship. This may not be such a bad deal after all.

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One of the major themes in the short story "The Gift Of The Magi" by O Henry is the gift of giving - particularly in a loving marital relationship. The word Magi is significant in this theme as it is a reference to the Magi or three wise men/kings in the story of the Nativity of Jesus Christ in the christian religion at Christmas. Magi is another name for men of knowledge or wisdom - you may notice the similarity with the word magic. of course, another related theme is the idea of wisdom - so not only giving but wise and prudent giving. Jim and Della have love and lots of it, for each other. They also have generosity and unselfishness - but do they have wisdom in the manner of their giving and loving and in their choice of gifts?

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