The Gift of the Magi Questions and Answers
by O. Henry

The Gift of the Magi book cover
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What is the theme of "The Gift of the Magi"?

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Edith Sykes eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Two aspects of one theme that run together in this story are sacrifice and love.  Jim and Della already possess the greatest gifts they can ever possess: they have each other's love, a love that is willing to sacrifice for that love. 

They are compared to the Magi, who knelt at the manger where the infant Jesus lay and brought gifts to honor him.  But they knew, the Magi, that their gifts were small insignificant tokens compared to what this infant child would give to them.

They honored him, just as Della and Jim honor each other by sacrificing their prize possessions to buy the other a worthy gift for Christmas.  It is the sacrifice involved in this process that is at the heart of the theme--unselfish love, which is rare and should be cherished.

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luannw eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The main, general theme of this story by O'Henry is that giving is the greatest gift of all.  Della gives up her most cherished possession, her beautiful hair, to get a gift for her husband, Jim. She buys him a fob for his favorite possession--a pocket watch. Jim sells his pocket watch to buy beautiful combs for Della to adorn her hair.  Both gave up their most valued possession in order to give something to the one they loved.  The story is classic O'Henry with well developed characters, a city setting for the impoverished pair of young marrieds, and an ironic twist to the end of the story.

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eli468 | Student

One of the main themes in the story "The Gift of the Magi" is value. It shows how despite living in poor conditions without much, they still lived happily even without high value things. Their love was valuable enough for them to be happy. There's also the value of giving. The strongest value overall was just the emotional value of the love between Della and Jim.

crystaltu001 | Student

The theme is You need to sacrifice something for the one you love because Della and Jim both sacrificed something they loved to buy something for the person they love

zumba96 | Student

Love is more important than material values. Even though Della loses the necklace she works her entire life back just to give her friend the necklace she lent her for ONE night

soleil10 | Student

The theme is simply that it's the thought that counts.

mughees111 | Student

The main theme of the story is "love" which always needs ''sacrifice''. So, this story, basically, represents both the themes side by side. Della loves her husband, Jim, and in order to give him a Christmas present she sacrifices her only possession (i.e her beautiful hair). On the other hand Jim also gives his inhereted watch up to purchase a wonderful gift for his beloved wife. It is, infact, true that they both really love each other because they want to give gifts to each other without expecting from each other, as Shakespeare writes in his play ''King Lear": "Love is not love when it is mingled with regards."

sara-e | Student

The main theme in this story is sacrifice and love that go together. This is confirmed by the allusion to the Magi. The theme suggestes is that these qualities are more precious then matiriel gifts.

bluebird20 | Student

Della and Jim give each other the best of all possible gifts, love. It does not matter that Jim no longer has the gold watch to display on the elegant chain that Della gave him. Nor does it matter that Della no longer has long, luxurious hair to comb with the gift Jim gave her. What matters is that they have is each other.