what is the theme of 'The Gift of the Magi' by O Henry??

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pearlepratt | Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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In O'Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," Jim and Della were financially impoverished, but wealthy in love. In fact, they loved one another so much that they were willing to sacrifice their most prized possessions in order to demonstrate genuine love to one another.

The central theme of the selection concerns love and self-sacrifice. Either spouse could have offered the other a gift that would have sufficed for holiday giving. However, the sincere desire to offer a perfect gift moved Della to cut her hair in order to purchase a chain for Jim’s watch. It also moved Jim to sell his watch so that he could buy a set of combs for Della’s hair. He knew that she’d admired the set and he wanted to surprise her with the gift. Although neither was able to make immediate use of the gifts, they were both impressed by the degree of love and sacrifice evidence in the purchases. In fact, the author reminds the reader:

“But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest.”

In this statement from the text, O’Henry clarifies his theme for the reader. The value of the gifts was measured by the loving sacrifice made by each spouse. These selfless acts are priceless, more valuable than item that money can buy.

 

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