If you were Jim or Della in O Henry's The Gift of the Magi, how would you feel about the gift you received?
Jim and Della have seen better days--slightly better, anyway. As O. Henry begins his short story "The Gift of the Magi," it is made very clear that his protagonists are of extremely limited means financially. Della has been reduced to tears by her plight, and the author, in emphasizing their poverty, provides the following description of her and Jim's dismal surroundings:
"...take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad."
"The Gift of the Magi" is about the love of Jim and Della and the sacrifices each makes for the other. In both cases, those sacrifices prove somewhat empty in terms of the short-term goals. Jim sells his prized watch in order to buy a comb for Della's beautiful long hair. Della, meanwhile, sells her hair to pay for a fob for Jim's watch. O. Henry's story, then, is an example of irony insofar as each no longer possesses the item for which they sacrificed for the other. If the gestures proved ironic, however, the sentiments underlying the sacrifices are reinforced by these selfless acts of love.
Quite frankly, if I'm Della, I'm a little nonplussed by my beloved's sacrifice. I love Jim very deeply, but my hair is going to grow back. It will take some time, but it will grow back. That watch, however, was irreplaceable, having been passed down from generation to generation. It isn't going to grow back. It's a watch. Once the irony of the situation has faded, however, my love for Jim is not diminished. The comb is beautiful, and I will wear it proudly. It will always serve as a symbol of Jim's love. My sacrifice, however, will forever have been in vain.
If I'm Jim, I will forever miss that watch. It was my father's, and his father's before that. It was a treasured family heirloom. My love for Della, though, is more important to me than any material item. Her hair is important to her, and it will grow back over time. I do not lament the decision to sell my watch. I only regret that Della cut her hair to purchase a fob for a watch that I no longer possess. Hopefully, she can get her money back for the fob.
To me, Della’s gift would be like the embodiment of true love. Without doubt it would be my most prized possession, symbolizing pure love.
Della’s long hair had been her most precious belonging, something that she had always been proud of and had never parted with. She felt no less than a princess with it hanging “below her knee.”
“Della knew her hair was more beautiful than any queen’s jewels and gifts.”
Della got her enviable hair cut off to earn a few dollars so that she could buy me a Christmas gift!
No, that money didn’t buy her a gold fob, but it bought her me. The gift would be a constant reminder that I’ve been bought by somebody at the price of deepest, selfless and true love.
Holding the gift I would feel myself the most blessed and fortunate soul.
However, my first reaction might have been different. I might have been very upset. Knowing why she got her beautiful hair chopped off would have aroused a complex feeling in me mixed with different emotions including anger, helplessness, guilt, pity and immense love for Della. But soon, I know, these feelings would subside leaving the strongest one: the feeling of immense love for my beloved Della.
All my life the gold fob would be among the few dearest things I had, perhaps dearer than my life itself.