What does the narrator mean by "one's cheeks burned with silent imputation of parsimony" in "The Gift of the Magi"?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The entire sentence in question in O. Henry's story is:

Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. 

Della's cheeks are the ones burning. She feels embarrassed to be quibbling over a penny or two here or there, and the vendors she deals with make her feel like a miser and cheapskate with their silent acquiescence to her hard bargaining. Della doesn't want to alienate the shopkeepers, but she is trying desperately to accumulate enough money to buy her husband Jim a nice Christmas present at the end of the year. In spite of "bulldozing" the various shopkeepers, she only manages to accumulate one dollar and eighty-seven cents by Christmas Eve.

"Parsimony" is the key word here. It implies meanness of spirit, stinginess, selfishness, and greed. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines "parsimony" as "the quality of being very unwilling to spend money." Since Della had only a maximum of twelve dollars a week after paying the rent, she would have had to be extremely parsimonious. This would obviously be painful for her because she is a generous woman by nature. She spends all her money on a platinum watch-fob for her husband. This is the same kind of watch-fob a millionaire might buy. It is ironic that the shopkeepers were silently accusing her of parsimony when she was really so loving and generous.