What are the other themes of "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry besides love?

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dmcgillem eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In O'Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi," another theme that is present but that exists in tandem with love is that of sacrifice for others.  Jim and Della don't have much in life, but they each do have one prized possession:  Della has beautiful hair that would be the envy and prize of any woman, and Jim has a fine gold watch that is a prized family heirloom.  Each desires to give the other a gift that will enhance the treasured possession of the other.

With Christmas approaching, Della finds that she hasn't managed to save enough of their meager income to purchase the gift she wants for Jim, so she makes the painful decision to sell her hair to supplement what she has.  This is a difficult decision because it means not only that she will have short, unremarkable hair, but she is also concerned that Jim will not find her attractive anymore.  She is willing to sacrifice her hair and open herself up to insecurities, however, because of her deep, abiding love for him.

Jim has watched his beloved wife admire a set of hair combs on numerous occasions, and he desperately wishes to give them to her for Christmas.  However, when finances fall short, he chooses to sacrifice his treasured watch to give Della her unspoken heart's desire.  This was a great sacrifice, for though he may someday have a fine watch again, no other would hold the sentimental value and family history that his does.

Much has been written and discussed concerning whose sacrifice was the greatest, but in the end it doesn't matter which gift we judge to have the greatest value.  Each unselfishly gave the one thing that was most precious - nothing could have been harder for each of them to set aside for the love of one another.


mpvillaume | Student

Another theme is sacrifice. Each of the characters in the story sacrifices a prized possession for the other.

shootingstarash | Student
GENEROSITY Author focusses on something deeper than the superficial concept of giving gift that comes easily. He takes generosity born out of love so deep that it transcends reason or wisdom. SACRIFICE They sacrifice their personal treasure to enhance the treasure of the other. POVERTY The author conveys to the reader thet the Youngs are very poor by describing their shabby apartment and the money saved by Della and the way she had saved it. The author brought out the poverty of the couple by contrasting it with the vast riches of king Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.