Why was Della worried when Jim came home?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Della is afraid of how Jim will react when he sees her without her beautiful long hair. Will he stop loving her?

“If Jim doesn't kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl....Please God, make him think I am still pretty.”

O. Henry describes how she looks after she has done the best she can with the little bit of hair she still has left after being sheared by Madame Sofronie. 

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy.

The author devotes a lot of time to describing Della's shimmering brown hair before she rushes off to sell it. It is so long that it reaches all the way down to below her knee. She must have spent many hours washing and brushing it. Just the job of putting it all up in a "Gibson Girl" bouffant fashion must have been taxing, especially since she didn't even have a decent mirror to show her what she was doing.

Readers will always remember "The Gift of the Magi" as a story about a girl who sells her beautiful long hair in order to buy her husband a Christmas present. It is true that Jim also sells his watch to buy Della some expensive combs, but the story is told entirely from Della's point of view. It is definitely Della's story. It ends happily when her husband tells her:

“Don't make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less." 

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