illustration of two people, a woman and a man, looking at one another in profile with an ornate hair comb between them

The Gift of the Magi

by O. Henry

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Who are Della and Jim in "The Gift of the Magi," what do they want, and what are the main events and outcome?

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On the day before Christmas, a young married couple, James Dillingham Young (known as Jim) and his wife, Della, have very little money to buy each other gifts. Della has scrimped and saved, but since her husband's salary has been reduced, she has very little money to buy him a gift. They are devoted to each other, and each has one object that he or she cherishes. Della cherishes her beautiful long brown hair, and Jim cherishes the gold watch that belonged to his father and grandfather. 

To buy each other gifts for Christmas, Della cuts off and sells her beautiful locks, and Jim sells his gold watch. The irony is that Della has bought her husband a fob for his watch, and Jim has bough his wife the jeweled tortoiseshell combs that she wanted. Each has bought something for the other that is useless for the moment, but it's clear that they love each other and that love and sacrifice are the true gifts that they offer each other. 

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The two characters are Jim and Della Dillingham Young.  Jim is a hardworking young man and the husband of Della.  Della is an industrious young woman and the wife of Jim.  

They both want to purchase a special gift for each other.  Jim wants to buy Della a set of beautiful combs for her long hair.  Della wants to buy Jim a "platinum fob chain" for his beloved pocket watch.  They both have a dilemma: they do not have enough money.

Della decides to cut her beautiful hair and sell it in order to buy Jim the watch chain.  Jim decides to sell his heirloom watch to buy Della the combs.  They both sell their precious items and buy their intended gifts.  

When they present their gifts to one another, they realize what they have done.  Despite the fact that their gifts are rendered useless, their love for each other still shows.

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