illustration of two people, a woman and a man, looking at one another in profile with an ornate hair comb between them

The Gift of the Magi

by O. Henry
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What is the universal theme of the story "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry?

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One of the universal themes in the story is the supremacy of love over money. The two characters, Jim and Della, sell their most valuable possessions—Della's hair and Jim's gold watch—to buy the other a Christmas present. Della regards her long hair as her most beautiful asset, and covets a...

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One of the universal themes in the story is the supremacy of love over money. The two characters, Jim and Della, sell their most valuable possessions—Della's hair and Jim's gold watch—to buy the other a Christmas present. Della regards her long hair as her most beautiful asset, and covets a pair of hair combs she cannot afford. Jim regards his gold watch, inherited from his father, as his most prized possession. He is proud of the watch because he lives an otherwise shabby life without an adequate coat or gloves. In the end, their gifts are useless, as Jim buys Della the hair combs she wants, while Della buys Jim a watch chain. Although they cannot use the presents they receive, their willingness to sacrifice what is most dear and precious to them symbolizes their love for each other. When they sacrifice what they love most, they are not angry or upset; instead, they reaffirm their love for each other and the power of their love over the importance of physical possessions.

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