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The Gift of the Magi

by O. Henry

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Discussion Topic

The significance, meaning, and appropriateness of the title "The Gift of the Magi" and its relation to the story's themes and main ideas

Summary:

The title "The Gift of the Magi" signifies the selfless love and sacrifice of the main characters, Della and Jim, who each give up their most prized possession to buy a gift for the other. This act parallels the gifts of the Magi, the wise men who brought valuable gifts to Jesus, highlighting themes of love, sacrifice, and the true spirit of giving.

Expert Answers

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What is the story "The Gift of The Magi" about?

The story is pretty short, you could easily read it in 20 minutes. It feels set in the early 1900s and their poor state does  indeed cause them to each risk their most prized possession for each other. The irony of the story though is that the gifts purchased are now meaningless because what Jim bought Della was for her hair(which is now gone). Della bought Jim a chain for a watch(which he sold).

Although the message is about great sacrifice, it keeps you wondering because the sacrifices made lost their value once given as gifts. Does this mean material objects are of less value? Yes. Does it mean what is on the inside matters more? Yes.

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What is the story "The Gift of The Magi" about?

This story is about love and about what people do for the ones that they love.

In the story, Jim and Delia have very little money.  But they want to buy each other Christmas presents.  So Jim sells his dearest possession (a watch) to buy combs for Delia's hair.  Delia's prize possession is her long hair.  So she has it cut and sold to buy a nice chain for Jim's watch.

So what has happened is that they have each sacrificed their most prized thing for the other.  This, the author is saying, is true love.

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What does the title "The Gift of the Magi" signify?

If, perhaps, the question means "How is the title made specific?" then the reader looks for how the author, O. Henry, gives supporting details that point to who in his story are the Magi and why.

Della and Jim Dillingham Young, "two foolish children" as O. Henry terms them, are actually wiser than many other people because they realize that love is more valuable than any material possession such as Della's luxurious hair and Jim's resplendent gold watch.  These "foolish" children are the opposite: They are the Magi, they are the wisest.  For, Della and Jim know the true meaning of Christmas, Love.  Out of his love for mankind, God sent his only Son to earth and the Wise Men came to worship.  In a more mundane analogy--"foolish"--Della and Jim, out of their great love, sacrifice their only valuable possessions to make their loved one happy on Christmas Day, the day that Christians celebrate God's love.

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What does the title "The Gift of the Magi" signify?

I am not sure what you mean by "specified" but perhaps you are referring to how the title is explained at the end of the story. O. Henry writes this:

The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. 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. They are the magi.

In this sense, he explains how Jim and Della gave the best gifts of all because each gift required a sacrifice. Christians believe that Christ gave the best gift to mankind because he, too, sacrificed his greatest possession - his life - when he died on the cross for the sins of mankind. Jim and Della sacrifice the greatest things that each of them owns - Della's hair and Jim's watch. O. Henry is explaining that the act of giving a gift in the first place is a beautiful thing. It blesses the giver and the receiver of the gift.

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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi" and who are the magi in the Bible?

In the Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew, the magi are the three kings—also called the three wise men—who travel from far away lands to bring the baby Jesus valuable gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold, obviously, is the precious metal with which most of us are familiar; frankincense is made of dried sap from a particular kind of tree that grows in parts of the Middle East and Africa, and it is believed to have many medicinal properties; myrrh is another kind of tree resin believed to have medicinal properties as well.

I think the story is called "The Gift of the Magi" because the author, O. Henry, wants to make a point about sacrifice. In the Bible, the magi are rich and distinguished kings who do not have to sacrifice in order to bring Jesus expensive gifts. However, in the story, Jim and Della are not rich and distinguished people. Jim has to work hard, and Della has to pinch every penny, and despite their best efforts, they have been unable to save enough to buy one another the gifts they would most like to give—valuable, yes, but also meaningful and thoughtful. Unlike the original magi, the Youngs have to sacrifice in order to give their gifts, and this makes their gifts even more special, even more loving. Thus, at the story's end, the narrator says, of those who sacrifice in this way, "they are the wisest [...]. They are the magi." He revises what it means to be wise: Jim and Della know more about love than the three wise men.

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What is the exposition of "The Gift of the Magi"?

In a piece of literature, the exposition serves to kind of set the scene.  It is meant to give the reader the background to the story.  It gives them information that they need to understand the rest of the story and it sets up the conflict.

To me, the exposition of this story consists of the first six paragraphs.  In this part of the story we learn that Jim and Della are poor.  We learn that in some detail (how much he makes, how much she has left).  Then we learn about the main conflict -- we learn that she wants to buy him a Christmas present with that paltry amount of money.

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Why is "The Gift of the Magi" an appropriate title?

In the very last few lines of the story, the narrator justifies the title:

Of all who give gifts, these two were the most wise.  Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the most wise.  Everywhere they are the wise ones.  They are the magi.
He has said that the original magi were "wonderfully wise men," so it stands to reason that their gifts would be wise gifts as well.  The "two children" of this story are not wise, at least in the typical sense of the word, because they sold their most prized possessions in order to purchase a gift for the other.  In a way, it is unwise to part with the object dearest to you.  However, these "children" are even more wise than the magi because they had to realize something the magi did not: that the person they love is far more precious than any object, however meaningful, could ever be.  The magi were kings and did not have to make a personal sacrifice in order to express their love to the Christ child; as rich kings, they could easily afford whatever expensive gifts they chose to offer.  Jim and Della, on the other hand, each made a personal sacrifice, giving up the only thing each had of any value in order to show their love.  This makes them even wiser than the original wise men; Jim and Della, then, are the true magi.
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Why is "The Gift of the Magi" an appropriate title?

The title "The Gift of the Magi" is a biblical allusion to the wisemen who visit Christ and bring gifts like gold and spices.  The heart of the story by O. Henry is the idea of gift giving at Christmas time.  In the final moments of the story, O. Henry clarifies the significance of the title:

The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents.

O. Henry makes the argument that although Jim and Della may have acted foolishly, their gifts were selfless.  In both cases, the character sacrificed what they loved to procure something for the person they cared about most.  The title "The Gift of the Magi" reinforces O. Henry's larger theme about gift-giving; the gift itself is not nearly so important as the consideration and love put into it.  The Magi brought gifts to honor newborn Jesus; Jim and Della's gifts also pay tribute to their selfless love.

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Why is "The Gift of the Magi" an appropriate title?

According to the Christian tradition, the wise men or magi who travelled from afar to place their gifts at the baby Jesus' feet as he lay in the manger were the first gift givers.  Therefore the title of the story is meant to reflect that tradition as well as the unselfishness of the givers in that the magi travelled such great distances to give their gifts to the newborn baby.  In some ways they are also linked to the story in that their gifts were in some ways less practical to a baby but were meant to signify their willingness to sacrifice, just as Jim and Delia were willing to sacrifice for each other, even if it meant giving up their most prized possession.

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What is the justification of "The Gift of the Magi"?

The story is about giving the ultimate gift, a perfect act of love that cannot be expressed any other way. The young couple in the story is very poor, but they both sacrifice the things they love the most: his gold watch and her long, beautiful hair, to get a gift for each other that they know is the perfect gift for each of them.

Unfortunately, the costs for these gifts are the very things that they are trying to surprise each other with.  She cuts off and sells her hair to buy him a new chain for his watch; he sells his watch to buy her combs for her long, beautiful hair. However, as the narrator says, just like the wise Magi who brought gifts to the baby Jesus, so was this couple wise in sacrificing their most precious possessions to give a gift from the heart.  “They were the magi,” and definitely justified in their gifts.

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How is the title of the short story "The Gift Of The Magi" by O. Henry justified?

Jim and Della were very impractical in selling their most valuable possessions, Jim's heirloom pocket watch and Della's fabulously long hair, in order to raise money to buy Christmas presents for each other. They were financially poor; if they wanted to sell their things, they could have used the funds for bettering their living situation.

The original magi were the wise men who brought exotic gifts to the Baby Jesus. A poor baby, born to unmarried parents in an isolated village, would have had no practical way to benefit from receiving frankincense, gold, and myrrh.

In the end, Jim and Della's gifts come to be regarded as being the more valuable gifts because they demonstrated the great depth of their love and commitment to each other. With time, they would be able to utilize the gifts, and they could enjoy the anticipation of that time along with their affection.

"The gift of the magi" was the gift of love, given deeply and freely by Jim and Della to demonstrate their devotion and dedication.

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What are the allusions in "The Gift of the Magi"?

Writers use allusions within a story to reference something that exists outside the text itself. Allusions can invoke a wide range of subjects: they can draw from history, culture, or other works of literature, to name just a few examples.

Ultimately, I would say the key allusion in "The Gift of the Magi" is the allusion contained in the story's title, an allusion that might actually be carried across its entire structure. In many ways, O. Henry's short story, set during the Christmas holidays and focused as it is on the subject of gift-giving, seems to have been written in conversation with the Christmas story of the magi and the birth of Christ. His specific choice of title might well have the potential effect of raising those biblical connections in the minds of his readers, connections which might be further reinforced through additional biblical allusions to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Furthermore, the allusion contained within the story's title will later become invoked within the text itself, when O. Henry makes reference to the magi (and even compares his two protagonists with the magi as the story comes to an end).

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What are the allusions in "The Gift of the Magi"?

"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry has three distinct Biblical allusions -- the magi, King Solomon, and the Queen of Sheba.  

The magi were three men that traveled from far away lands in order to give gifts to the newly born Christ child.  Depending on who you ask, the magi range from being simple wise men, to being kings. Regardless, all accounts agree that the three men gave expensive gifts to Jesus (gold, frankincense, and myrrh).  Of the three Biblical allusions in the story, the magi is the most overt.  It's in the title of the story, and O. Henry explicitly tells his readers about them in the final paragraph.  

The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men— who brought gifts to the newborn Christ-child. They were the first to give Christmas gifts. Being wise, their gifts were doubtless wise ones.

The allusions to the Queen of Sheba and Solomon are much more veiled.  What O. Henry does though, by hinting at Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, is pick two people who were historically crazy rich.  From I Kings 10:

And when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions. And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bore spices, and very much gold, and precious stones:

O. Henry hints at the Queen of Sheba when he says that Della's hair was more beautiful and valuable than "any queen’s jewels and gifts."  

As for King Solomon, the Bible describes him this way:

King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.

O. Henry tells his readers that no king has ever had anything as valuable as Jim's watch. That king could only be King Solomon.  

So despite the fact that Jim and Della are dirt poor, they own things more valuable than any king or queen ever has, and they willingly give those things up in order to give gifts to each other.  That's some deep love.  

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What are the allusions in "The Gift of the Magi"?

Because many of O. Henry's stories are set in New York at the turn of the century, there are usually references to things or places in this area. Here some local allusions:

  • Coney Island - This is a peninsula on which there are residences and seaside resorts; however, it is most famous for its amusement park and boardwalk. In the setting of the narrative of "The Gift of the Magi" at the beginning of the twentieth century, Coney Island was at its peak with its beach, snack shops, and amusement park, vaudeville-type shows and chorus girls.
  • Madame Sofronie's shop - In the early 1900s, wealthy women liked to wear hairpieces, so poorer women with luxurious hair would sell their hair to such shops as that of Mme. Sofronie, who has probably assumed a French name to seem more cultured.

Other allusions are Biblical:

  • King Solomon of the Old Testament was the second son of King David. When God appeared to him in a dream, telling him he would grant him whatever he asked, Solomon requested understanding and discernment. This request so pleased God that He granted it, but also provided Solomon great riches and power.
  • The Magi - This is the name for the three kings, the three wise men, who followed the star to the humble shelter where Jesus, the Savior, was born. Known as the Magi, they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This reference is made in connection with Stella and Jim, who have given gifts gratuitously and without anticipation of any return.
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What are the allusions in "The Gift of the Magi"?

All of your listed allusions are indeed allusions because any allusion refers to something famous.

The "rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters" is a simile, not a metaphor because it is a comparison using like.

The greatest allusion is in the title, The Gift of the Magi, which refers to the sacrificial gifts the wise men gave after their long journey to find the Christ child. Each gift was fit for a king, but given under the humblest of circumstances. Each magi risked a great deal to get their treasure all the way to the baby Jesus. What is so cool about this allusion is how it parallels the journeys and careful efforts of Jim and Della during their gift-giving that Christmas. Think about it, their gifts became worthless. The gifts of the magi that original Christmas became worthless too in that nothing compared to the gift the Christ child was about to heap on humanity.

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What are the allusions in "The Gift of the Magi"?

Imagery is used in “The Gift of the Magi” to add humor and description to the story, so that we feel like we are there with the young couple.

Imagery is descriptive language that creates a picture in the reader’s mind.  One example of imagery from the first paragraph of the story uses color and figurative language to describe Della’s reaction to not having enough money to buy a decent Christmas present.

Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. (p. 3)

The color imagery is burning cheeks, which gives the reader a strong impression that Della was ashamed at asking for lower prizes.  The sentence also use the phrase figuratively, because her cheeks were not on fire.  When she talks of “bulldozing” the shopkeepers, this figurative description reinforces the idea of her personality being the driving force, and her desperation and self-destruction to get her way.

Della flops, a descriptive word in itself, on a “shabby” couch and cries.  She reflects on what her flat, described  as “furnished” and “$8 a week.”

It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad. (p. 3)

This is a pun on the words “beggar description” meaning it did not require description but “mendicancy” also means beggar.  The point is that they are very poor, but Della is fairly smart and has a wry sense of humor.

The descriptions continue.  Letters don’t fit in the mailbox, and there is “an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring” which is a figurative and very descriptive way of saying it was broken using metaphor and personification.

When Della looks out the window, the imagery is a metaphor for her feelings.

She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard. (p. 3)

Della is feeling very grey and depressed because she cannot buy her husband Jim a present, and the next day is Christmas.

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What imagery is found in "The Gift of the Magi"?

When you are looking for imagery, keep your eyes open for any descriptions that use the five senses--taste, touch, sight, sound, or smell--to describe what is going on in the scene.  Imagery uses those detailed sensory descriptions to help the reader feel like they are right there, because they can sense the atmosphere, the sights, sounds, tastes, etc. of the scene itself.  It really enhances the scenes, and draws the reader into the characters and the actions, like they there witnessing it for themselves.

O. Henry uses imagry in "The Gift of the Magi" to enhance the scene, and to help us feel Della's emotions.  He uses imagery to describe the poverty of Della and Jim's situation.  They have a "shabby little couch," which helps us to picture a worn-out, small sofa that has seen better days.  The name of Dillingham on the mailbox is described as

"blurred, as though they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D,"

which helps us to picture a worn through, down-trodden mailbox and nametag, symbolizing their high hopes that had not been realized.

Other great uses of imagery come in describing Della's appearances and emotions.  O. Henry describes her crying fit as "sobs, sniffles, and smiles," helping us to imagine the messy cry that she had over the money.  Then, when she gets her hair idea,

"Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds."

It is easy to picture her shining eyes and pale skin--it paints a picture of sudden excitement, and even a little dread.  Her all-important hair

"fell about her, rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters."

This beautiful description helps us to picture the absolute gorgeous nature of her hair, which makes the loss of it that much more sad.

O. Henry uses imagery to paint a picture of the Dillinghams' poverty, and of Della's intense desire to make her husband happy.  It effectively draws the reader in, enhances the themes, and adds to the story's charm.  I hope that helped; good luck!

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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

The title's appropriate for a number of reasons. First of all, it's coming up to Christmas as the story begins, and Jim and Della want to give each other gifts as an expression of their mutual love. The Magi, or three wise men, brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem on that first Christmas Day. The Magi were already renowned for their wisdom, but Jim and Della become wise through their unfortunate experience of gift-giving.

Della sells some of her beautiful locks of hair to buy Jim a chain for his pocket-watch; Jim buys Della a fancy new set of combs for her—for her beautiful locks of hair. So both end up with gifts that are pretty much worthless. But in the process they've gained wisdom. They've come to realize that their love is so much greater than any gift could possibly express. As in the case of the Magi, it's what the gifts symbolize that's more important than the gifts themselves.

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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

The Magi were the three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. They had travelled many miles and gave unselfishly to a child. This act of love is mirrored in the story "The Gift of the Magi". Both Delia and Jim sell their most precious possession in order to give the other person a gift. The irony is that by selling their most prized possession, both Delia and Jim make each other's gift worthless. However, as the narrator reveals, this young couple's love and sacrifice is the greatest gift anyone could possess. The narrator even compares their gifts to those of the magi by saying,"''let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest ... They are the magi."

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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

There are several elements that make a story interesting.  These may vary from person to person.  However, “The Gift of the Magi” has been a well-loved story for generations.  A lot of people must find it interesting!  I’d suggest there are two main reasons.  First, it uses irony.  Second, it has a meaningful theme.

Irony is when something happens in a story that you don’t expect.  In this case, the young husband and wife each buy each other a gift that they can’t use.  What makes this ironic is that each one gives up something he or she appreciates in order to get something nice for the other one.  Jim sells his gold watch to buy Delilah a new set of combs for her hair.  Delilah sells her hair to buy Jim a watch chain. The new gifts are useless, because they can only be used with the possessions they sold.  The irony is unexpected and helps make the story interesting.

Another reason the story is interesting is because it has meaningful themes, or messages.  People find stories more interesting when they can make personal connections to them.  There are many themes you could take from this story.  One theme is that love is more valuable than property.  They love each other, and that matters more than their most valued possessions.  They don’t realize this until the end.  Another theme might be that giving is more important than receiving, or that a gift is more valuable when it comes from sacrifice.

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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

"The Gift of the Magi" is so compelling because the ending is so unexpected. The main characters live in poverty and go to great lengths to try to do something kind for each other at Christmas. This has a familiar feeling; as readers, we immediately begin to root for these characters because of their good intentions.

Della's sacrifice is great. She realizes that her hair is "more beautiful than any queen's jewels and gifts." Jim is equally fortunate to own a valuable watch even in the midst of poverty, knowing that "no king had anything so valuable."

This couple desperately wants to make the holiday special, which is a feeling that almost all readers can empathize with: wanting desperately to afford a nice gift that is outside of the budget. Readers want (and expect) that this great sacrifice will end well for at least one of them.

The story is thus interesting because it is a reminder that gifts alone do not convey love to the people closest to us. At the end of the story, Della owns combs but has no hair to put them in; her husband has a gold watch chain but no watch to put it on. They each have the greatest and most noble of intentions, but those efforts fall shockingly short of bringing joy to their spouse.

Though the sacrifices they make show a great love, in the end, their efforts leave them with foolish trinkets that they cannot even use. This unexpected ending captivates us because we are reminded that gifts are not the true way to convey love.

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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

The significance of the title is twofold. First, we need to realize that the title comes from the New Testament. The magi, or wise men, gave the baby Jesus gifts. According to the the gospel of Matthew, they gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 states (KJV):

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

These magi travelled a far distance, and they gave precious gifts to a child they had never seen before.  Their gifts expressed their devotion.  That they bowed down to worship also shows this point. From this perspective, the title suggests that those who give generously are magi or wise men. 

Second, O. Henry states that Jim and Della are like the magi, because they also gave wise and precious gifts.  Their gifts were particularly wise, because they gave what mattered the most to them. And in this way, they showed their hearts. Finally, the theme of Christmas also ties in nicely.  Here is how O. Henry ends his story:

But let me speak a last word to the wise of these days: Of all who give gifts, these two were the most wise. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the most wise. Everywhere they are the wise ones. They are the magi.

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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

The Magi (or wise men) are well known as bringers of precious gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—to baby Jesus soon after his birth.

This story by O. Henry is a classic tale of love—which is the greatest gift that anyone can ever give or receive. The wise men made a great effort by traveling a great distance to bring these valuable gifts to the Christ child.

By selling her hair to buy her husband a watch fob, Della makes a great personal sacrifice; and by selling his watch to buy Della combs for her hair, Jim displays his willingness and desire to give his wife a wonderful gift.

At the end of the story, O. Henry states that through their sacrificial love and the giving and receiving of gifts, Jim and Della are just as wise as the magi.

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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

Like many titles, O. Henry's title for his famous story of love is a Biblical allusion to the wise men who brought precious gifts to the Baby Jesus after following the star in the heavens on the first Christmas.  Della and Jim Dillingham Young, "two foolish children" as O.Henry, the narrator, refers to them, are by comparison even wiser than the Magi since they understand how precious their love is.  For, they willingly sacrifice their most valued possessions in order to provide their loved one joy on Christmas Day.  For this reason, O. Henry considers Della and Jim wiser than the three kings who came with precious gifts on the first Christmas:

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.  They are the Magi.
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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

An allusion is an indirect reference to something.  You are prompted to think of something without having had it mentioned.  The Gift of the Magi alludes to love and sacrifice.  The three wise men brought earthly gifts that were deeply revered by kings and royalty.  Their travels and their sacrifices were for naught, however.  The king they sought to honor with the gold, frankincense and myrrh had no use for such things.  They were probably shocked to find that the royalty they had traveled so far to see was but a mere babe, who had no need for such things.  But the love that was the true basis for their visit was repaid many times over.  That was the true gift - the love, not the offerings.

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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

The reason the author titled this piece "The Gift of the Magi" is because of the gifts they give and the important lesson they learn. Let's start with who a Magi is. In the biblical story of Jesus, there were three wise men, or Magi, who brought gifts to Jesus. The Magi were like the scientists during ancient time; they would have been extremely intelligent and knowledgable. O'Henry, the author of "The GIft of the Magi", chooses to compare his characters to these wise men not because they start out wise, but because they end wiser. The two characters seek to buy each other the best Christmas gifts. In the end, they learn that love is the best gift of all. They come to understand what is truly to be valued and what doesn't really matter.
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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

"The Gift of the Magi" is a story in which a young couple excel in their giving one to another. The author compares their giving to the gifts the Magi gave to baby Jesus. The Three Wise men knew how to give. They gave unique gifts with special emphasis. Jim and Della have given special gifts one to the other. They gave the ultimate sacrifice. They gave their most prized possession. 

Truly, no other couple has been compared to The Three Wise Men and their giving of themselves. The author of "The Gift of the Magi" beautifully writes how Jim and Della pay the price by giving up valuable gifts to show their love for one another. 

No greater love is expressed than the love Jim and Della have for each other. Their gift giving displays the unselfish attitudes. Jim and Della care deeply and each one's gift giving expresses a genuine desire to please the other. 

No doubt, Jim and Della are the Magi:

The narrator explains that the wise men, or magi, brought gifts to the baby Jesus and so invented the giving of Christmas gifts. Because these men were wise, they no doubt gave wise gifts. Delia and Jim, the narrator asserts, have unwisely sacrificed their most precious possessions. Yet, because they gave from the heart, they are wise: "They are the magi."

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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

O. Henry gave his story the fanciful title of "The Gift of the Magi" because it takes place during the Christmas season--and was probably written as a Christmas story for publication at that time. The Magi were the three wise men who brought precious gifts to the Christ child shortly after he was born. The gifts which the young husband and wife in the story exchange at Christmas are also precious because each of them gave up a precious possession in order to get the money to buy a rather ordinary gift for the other--hair combs for the wife and a watch fob for the husband. The title is O. Henry's way of suggesting that what makes a gift valuable is the love and thoughtfulness that go into it. There also seems to be a suggestion that Della may be having a baby of her own in the near future. This is indicated by the fact that they both have to wait some time to be able to use the gifts they received from each other. Della will let her hair grow back, and Jim will save money to redeem his watch.

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Why is the story titled "The Gift of the Magi"?

The title of "The Gift of the Magi" is appropriate because, underneath the surface irony, the gifts Jim and Della gave each other were wise. As the narrator explains at the end of the story, the Magi were wise men, and the gifts they brought to the infant Jesus were wise.

The gifts Jim and Della give each other, in a practical sense, were useless: because Della had sold her long, beautiful hair, she couldn't use the costly comb and brush set Jim gave her. Likewise, because he sold his beloved watch, Jim couldn't use the expensive watch chain Della gave him. However, O. Henry, in this story, is inviting us to think about the true meaning of Christmas and of gift gifting. Wisdom, he is saying, goes deeper than mere knowledge. If Della and Jim had known what the other was doing, they never would have bought the gifts they did.

Nevertheless, they did the wisest thing of all. The deepest point of a gift is not to give a person something they can use (though that is nice). Instead, it is to show your love and caring for the other person. Love is the greatest gift of all, and like the magi, the couple's gifts showed how much they loved each other. Each one was willing to sacrifice their most precious possession to do something for the other.

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What is the main idea of "The Gift of the Magi"?

The main idea in O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" is in the idea that the value of a gift comes not in its actual cost, but from giving from the heart. While the narrator of the story calls Jim and Della "not wise," he goes on to call them "the most wise" before comparing them to the Magi, who "Being wise, their gifts were doubtless wise one."

The narrator calls Della and Jim "the most wise" for each giving up their most valuable items for each other even though giving up their most precious possession ruined one another's gift. In the story, "a tear or two ran down her face" when Della decides to cut off her hair to make $20 for her husband's gift, a gold chain for his watch, his most precious possession. Ironically, if not surprisingly, Jim has sold his watch to buy combs for his wife's most precious possession, her hair.

Throughout the story, the narrator breaks from his third-person persona and seems to speak directly to the audience in order to editorialize why these gifts are precious and to explain the story's main idea. After Jim finds out about Della's hair, the narrator posits:

"Eight dollars a week or a million dollars a year— how different are they? Someone may give you an answer, but it will be wrong. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. My meaning will be explained soon."

The narrator goes on to explain the main idea of this story succinctly: "Each sold the most valuable thing he owned in order to buy a gift for the other."

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What is the main idea of "The Gift of the Magi"?

The main idea of "The Gift of the Magi" is that the value of a gift is in the giver, rather than the gift itself. Jim and Della, out of their love for each other, purchased a gift that required them to sacrifice something that was precious to them. Though that sacrifice thus made the gifts impractical, nevertheless they showed themselves to be understanding of true giving, true sacrifice, and true love. As Henry says, "Of all who give and receive gifts, tsuch as they are wises. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi."

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What is the main idea of "The Gift of the Magi"?

The main theme is sacrifice and how willing one could be to go through sacrifices in the name of love.  The Magi were the three wisemen who traveled all the way to present the gifts of love to baby Jesus, according to the Bible. Likewise, this story is inspired by such "wise" gifts that the magi gave Baby Jesus only as it would happen in the reality of sadness of the two main characters, whom also sacrificed and gifted each other wise gifts.

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What is the significance of the title "The Gift of the Magi"?

The title "The Gift of the Magi," is clearly an allusion to the three wise men who brought gifts to the infant Jesus. This does not necessarily mean either that the story has a religious message or even that it is a Christmas story (although it does, in fact, take place at Christmas). The principal suggestion is that gifts and wisdom both figure in the story in some way.

There are two points in the title which illuminate the theme of the story. The first is the singular word "gift." The three wise men brought three gifts, and Della and Jim each buy a gift for the other, making two in all. Why, therefore, is the word not plural? This is revealed at the very end of the story: the true gift is love, which they share. A religious interpretation of the story might add that love is universal and comes from God, meaning that it was the original single gift in the Christmas story, given to the wise men as well as given by them.

The second point for consideration in the title is the seriousness with which O. Henry uses the word "Magi." This is debated at the end of the story. At first it appears that the word is ironic, since Jim and Della have been foolish. However, O. Henry goes on to say that their impractical gifts are the result of a love and selflessness which shows a higher wisdom. The term "Magi" can be used to describe such people without irony after all.

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What is the meaning of the title "The Gift of the Magi"?

One one level, as the narrator of “The Gift of the Magi” recognizes, Della and Jim have been extraordinarily foolish in giving each other useless gifts for Christmas. Della sold some of her beautiful hair to buy Jim a watch-chain, whereas Jim sold his watch to buy Della a set of fancy combs. So, by a strange twist of irony, Della and Jim have ended up with things for which they have no use, at least for now.

And yet, despite this, the narrator goes on to say that Jim and Della are the wisest among those who give gifts. This is because they understand that the act of gift-giving is about expressing love, not necessarily about giving someone something that they can use right away.

In that sense, Della and Jim can be compared with the magi, who were the three wise men who traveled from far distances to the little town of Bethlehem, where they bestowed gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh upon the baby Jesus. Such gifts were, of course, of no immediate use, but that wasn't the point. The point was rather the spirit in which they were bestowed. And the spirit in which they were bestowed was one of love, the exact same spirit in which Della and Jim gave each other Christmas gifts.

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What is the main theme in "The Gift of the Magi"?

In O. Henry's story “The Gift of the Magi,” Della and Jim sacrifice their greatest treasures to buy Christmas gifts for each other, and herein lies the story's main theme: self-giving love. Della and Jim love each other far more than they love their possessions, and they are willing to give up those treasured possessions to express their love for each other.

Della's hair is her pride and joy. It flows “rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters” all the way down below her knees. Her hair is more valuable to her than nearly anything else. But she needs the perfect gift for her husband, so she sells her hair for twenty dollars and buys Jim a platinum fob for his treasured watch.

Jim's watch is the couple's other “pride and joy” possession. He inherited it from his father, who had inherited it from his own father. The watch is a lovely gold, and Jim often pulls it out just so others can admire it. Yet Jim needs the perfect gift for his wife, so he sells the watch to buy Della the set of tortoiseshell hair combs she has so long admired.

Both Della and Jim decide that their love for each other is worth far more than their most prized possessions. Therefore, they sacrifice the hair and the watch because they love each other, symbolically giving parts of themselves along with the presents they purchase. This self-giving love may seem foolish to many people, especially since neither Della nor Jim can use their Christmas presents. The presents, however, are not the point at all. Della and Jim's love is far more important, and in their love, they are wise, just like the Magi.

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What are some quotes that support the theme of "The Gift of the Magi"?

With the theme of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" being that love supercedes materialism, that is, the spiritual gift of love is far more important than any material object, much of the written narrative is directed toward this moral.

When, for instance, Della decides to sell her most precious possession, hair that the Queen of Sheba would have envied, in order to purchase a platinum watch chain for her husband's handsome watch, she is delighted to be "ransaking the stores for Jim's present."  In fact, O. Henry writes that "the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings."

As Jim arrives home, he stops inside the door with "a peculiar expression on his face."  When he learns why Della has cut her hair, "[He] enfolded his Della."  Jim explains that there is nothing that "could make me like my girl any less."  Further, he says  that if she opens the package she will understand his perplexity.  And, when Della discovers the combs for which she has yearned, she

...hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say, 'My hair grows so fast, Jim!'

Then, Della hurries to give Jim his present, the watch chain.  But Jim has sold his watch in order to buy the combs for Della.  Instead of being upset and regretting his loss, Jim tells Della,

"...let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em awhile.  They're too nice to use just at present...."

Finally, the authorial intrusion of O. Henry explicates the theme:

...And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasure of their house.....Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest.  Everywhere they are wisest.  They are the Magi.
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What are some of the themes in "The Gift of Magi"?

Another theme in the short story "Gift of the Magi" is that of secrecy, particularly in giving. Part of Jim and Della's reasoning in keeping the gifts secret is of course the element of surprise. Both are looking forward to the excitement of the element of surprise when their loved one finally opens the much-saved for present. The humorous irony of secrecy in marriage and relationships is borne out by the fact that the combs are now redundant, because Della has sacrificed her long hair, which makes Jim a little sad. This is a poignant moment, but at least everyone in the story ,and the readers, can be comforted by the fact that hair grows back - and both will have learned a little about keeping secrets in marriage!

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What are some of the themes in "The Gift of Magi"?

To me, the major theme of this story is that of love.  The story explores what love is through the actions of Jim and Delia.

In the story, Jim and Delia are very generous to one another.  They are each willing to give up their most treasured possessions in order to give the other a present.  This is a tremendously loving thing to do for another person.  The author is saying that even if a gift ends up not being useful, the thought behind it can show great love.

So the main theme is love and how a person may show love to another.

Enotes' summary also says that wealth and poverty is a theme.  It points out that the couple is poor in material goods but is rich because of their love.

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What are some of the themes in "The Gift of Magi"?

This is a good question. There are many themes in O. Henry's short story, "The Gift of the Magi." Let me give you three of them.

Perhaps the greatest theme of the short story is generosity. This theme is underlined when the reader is let into the world of the two main characters, Della and Jim. They are poor. They have been saving all year long and still they have little money to buy anything for each other. In light of this, they sell their most prized possession to have enough money to buy a gift for each other. Della cuts her hair and sells it; Jim sells his gold watch.  Generosity is show through sacrifice.

Second, the whole short story is about true love as well. If we ask why Della and Jim do what they do, we can say that it is on account of love. Della and Jim might be poor in material possessions, but they are extremely wealthy in love.

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What is the message of "The Gift of the Magi"?

The moral lesson to be taken from "The Gift of the Magi" is that love is the most important and precious gift that can ever be given.

In short, this is the story of a young couple madly in love. Neither Della nor Jim has much money, and both wish to get the other a perfect Christmas gift. These gifts wind up canceling each other out, however, because Jim sells his gold watch to buy Della tortoiseshell hair combs, and Della sells her long hair to buy Jim a platinum watch chain. Della therefore winds up with combs but no long hair, while Jim winds up with a watch chain but no watch. What they do still have, however, is their immense love for each other, and they quickly realize that this is the most valuable gift they could ever have given each other.

The moral lesson, therefore, is that the best gifts are the ones that money cannot buy. While Della and Jim spent money on gifts that turned out to be useless, their love was freely given. It was this love, together with the sacrifices they made for each other, that meant more to both of them than any material gift ever could have.

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What is the true "gift" in "The Gift of the Magi"?

The gifts that Jim and Della buy each other for Christmas in "The Gift of the Magi" are a watch-chain and a set of ornamental combs. Jim sells his watch to buy Della the combs, and Della sells her hair to buy Jim the watch-chain, making both gifts useless.

The story, however, is called "The Gift of the Magi," not "The Gifts of the Magi." This suggests that the gift in question is a single thing. The reference to a single gift is clearly intentional, since in the Bible there are three magi who bring three gifts, making the plural more natural as an allusion.

In the final paragraph, O. Henry makes it clear that the gift in question is love. Most of the story follows Della in her attempt to find a gift worthy of Jim, and it is clear that she values his happiness more than any sacrifice she might have to make. There is a moment of doubt when Jim returns and looks strangely at Della, but the reader soon discovers that this is only because he is thinking that his own gift will now be useless. The gift of unselfish love that the two young people give to each other makes them, according to the author, the wisest people in the world.

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What's a theme for "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry?

O. Henry is not generally regarded as a particularly profound or complex writer. The reader is apt to find that, after a few stories, the plot twists at the end come to seem rather mechanical. "The Gift of the Magi," however, really does have a profound theme, one which is difficult to express in a few words. One might perhaps identify it rather vaguely as "the wisdom of love" or try to pin it down a little more precisely as "the paradox that happiness is most likely to come from caring about someone else's happiness more than one's own."

At the end of the story, O. Henry describes Jim and Della as both foolish and wise. From a materialistic point of view, they are undoubtedly foolish, having given up treasured possessions to buy gifts that turn out to be useless. Each of them, however, willingly made a great material sacrifice in order to make the other happy. The cliché that "it's the thought that counts" is true of their gifts, though perhaps it would be slightly more accurate here to say "it's the feeling that counts." There is no doubt in the reader's mind that the impecunious young couple will have a happy Christmas together and, provided that their priorities do not change, a happy life, since their eagerness to sacrifice Della's hair and Jim's watch have conclusively proved that these were never their most precious possessions in the first place.

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Is the title "The Gift of the Magi" appropriate?

This would probably be a personal judgment call, as no one can dictate whether you should think the title of a story works or not. That being said, we can try to discuss this title within the context of the story to try to discern how it relates to the story itself and speculate as to why O. Henry might have chosen the title he did.

First of all, it's important to note that the magi is in reference to a story from the Bible about the wise men who bring gifts for the birth of Christ. However, at the end of the story, O. Henry invokes their example, citing the magi as the ones who "invented the art of giving Christmas presents," and he ties that example back to his main protagonists who live so many centuries removed: this is ultimately a story of sacrifice, of giving up your own precious possessions for the happiness of a loved one. Della sacrifices her hair so that she can get her husband a fob chain for his watch, and Jim sacrifices his watch for combs for his wife's hair.

To a cynic, this story would be a cruelly ironic one: each sacrifices for the other and is left with nothing. But that is not O. Henry's meaning, because for O. Henry, that act of sacrifice and devotion is far more powerful than any material possessions. In their willingness to sacrifice for one another, Della and Jim have been placed within a tradition that stretches back to the Magi themselves: they understand the true nature of gift-giving and the true value in it. Thus, O. Henry writes, "they are wisest. They are the magi."

With that being said, I would suggest that this particular title primarily works on the thematic and symbolic level rather than the literal. It's about the spirit of gift-giving, a spirit which Jim and Della embody, but this is a spirit which is, in some ways, larger than Jim and Della themselves. It inhabits the center of Christmas tradition, stretching all the way back to its earliest days.

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What is a suitable alternate title for "The Gift of the Magi"?

In order to come up with an alternate title for the wonderful inspirational Christmas short story "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry, we need to understand the plot of the story and what the writer is trying to say. I assume that if you have this assignment you have already read the story, but let's go over it quickly just to refresh our memories.

"The Gift of the Magi" tells the story of a couple, Jim and Della, who love each other very much and want to get each other Christmas presents. However, they are poor and can't afford expensive gifts. Each of them has something they feel is more valuable than anything else they own. Jim has a gold watch, and Della has lovely hair. Della sells her hair to purchase a platinum fob chain for Jim's watch, and Jim sells his watch to purchase a set of tortoise shell combs with jeweled rims for Della's hair. The sacrifice that each makes for the other renders the gifts unusable, but O. Henry's point is that they have so much love for each other that they are each willing to give up the material things that they value most. That's why in the end Jim and Della's gifts are compared to those of the magi:

And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. 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. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

So when you think of alternative titles to this wonderful story, think of the love between Jim and Della and the sacrifices that they made for each other. Some examples of alternate titles might be "The Gifts of Love" or "Love's Sacrifices" or "The Real Magi." I'm sure you can come up with others.

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What is the true "gift" in "The Gift of the Magi"?

The true gift in the story is the sacrifice that Jim and Della are each willing to make for one another in order to purchase a gift worthy and beautiful enough to be owned by the other. The wise men, the original magi, who brought gifts to Jesus, did not have to sacrifice in order to give generously: they were rich kings who could easily afford extravagant presents. However, the Dillinghams have but little, and each has to part with the object they love most in the world in order to give generously to the other. The great love they feel for each other inspires them to make their purchases, making "these two . . . the wisest . . . They are the magi."

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What is the message of "The Gift of the Magi"?

The message of this short story is that love is the most important gift that two people can ever give to one another.

By deciding to sell her treasured hair so that she would have the money to buy her husband Jim a watch fob for Christmas, Della Young proves that her love for her husband is greater than her love of anything material. By selling his beloved watch to buy Della combs for her beautiful hair, Jim proves the exact same thing.

The story concludes with the narrator stating that, due to the fact that both of them gave gifts from the heart, they both have the wisdom of the Magi.

In other words, the message of this story is that love is a greater gift than any material item could ever be.

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What is the message of "The Gift of the Magi"?

In this story, innocent Della and Jim, a young married couple, are the modern day Magi. The Magi were wise men who came and, out of love for Jesus as messiah, gave gifts to the infant child.

Della and Jim have an ironic mix-up when she sells her beloved long hair to buy a watch chain for Jim for Christmas. Jim meanwhile sells his watch to buy Della a costly comb and brush set she has long coveted.

Despite the mix up of each buying a gift that the other person could no longer use, Della and Jim are wise because they sacrificed for one another. They reveal their love in the lengths they are willing to go in order to please the other.

The message of the story is that sincere love captures the spirit of Christmas more perfectly than any gift we can possibly buy for another person.

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What is the message of "The Gift of the Magi"?

"The Gift of the Magi" is a Christmas story, one that still resonates today many years after its publication. In December, many people are thinking of buying presents and also thinking about spending money, so readers sympathize with Della's problem. We would all like to be generous if we could afford it. But O. Henry's story tells us that it is not the gift that is important but the thought behind it. Jim understands and appreciates all the thought that Della has given to his present. Della spent months saving up money to buy him something especially nice, and she also spent the whole year thinking about what she should get. She not only decided on a watch fob but then spent a long time deciding exactly what kind of watch fob it should be. O. Henry's Christmas story tells us that real love is always shown in caring more about someone else than we care about ourselves. Jim and Della really love each other. Della cares more about Jim than she does about herself, and Jim cares more about her than he does about himself.

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What is the "gift" referred to in "The Gift of the Magi"?

One could argue that the real "gift" referred to in the title of the short story is Jim and Della's love and appreciation for each other. Both individuals selflessly sell their most prized possessions in order to get each other expensive gifts that they could typically not afford. Della ends up selling her beautiful hair in order to afford a fob for her husband's watch while Jim sells his prized watch to buy Della an expensive set of combs. The irony that neither Jim nor Della can utilize their gifts does not affect their feelings of love and appreciation for each other. Through Jim and Della's predicament, O. Henry poignantly illustrates that love, devotion, and sacrifice are the ultimate gifts and material objects cannot compare to selfless generosity.

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What is important about the title of O. Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi"?

The title of the story actually establishes Jim and Della as the true magi: the new and modern magi. At the end of the story, the narrator says,

But let me speak a last word to the wise of these days: Of all who give gifts, these two were the most wise. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the most wise. Everywhere they are the wise ones. They are the magi.
The narrator says that Jim and Della are "the most wise." They each gave up something that was precious to them in order to purchase a gift for the other. This decision was, perhaps, not a practical one; however, the fact that each one of them sacrificed in order to do something that would make the other happy shows them to be, if not practical, wise, because they understand that love is more valuable than any object they own. The wise men in the Christ story might not have understood what Jim and Della know—that love is more valuable than any object—because they were rich kings who did not have to sacrifice in order to make their gifts to Christ. In this way are Jim and Della the magi, then, as their wisdom exceeds that of the original magi.
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What is the significance of the title "The Gift of the Magi"?

The magi in the Biblical story of Christmas are bearers of gifts. They travel from afar to give gifts to the Christ child. They leave behind the comforts of home and sacrifice their time to make the long journey. The magi are also called the wise men.

In "The Gift of the Magi," Jim and Della each make a sacrifice to give a special gift. Della sells her long, beautiful hair to buy a chain for Jim's heirloom watch. Jim sells his watch to buy a set of combs for Della's hair. When they exchange their gifts, they discover they are now useless. Still, they give the gift of love and sacrifice. At the conclusion of the story, O. Henry refers to the magi:

The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. . . And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house.

O. Henry points out that Della and Jim's gifts may be viewed as unwise ones. They sacrificed for gifts that neither can use as originally intended. Nonetheless, O. Henry goes on:

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. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

O. Henry refers to gift-givers as being wise, as the magi were. According to him, those who give thoughtful gifts that require sacrifice are like the magi.

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What is the "gift" in "The Gift of the Magi" and its relation to the magi?

The real gift is the love that Jim and Della have for each other.

Jim and Della were very poor, but each wanted to surprise the other with a meaningful gift for Christmas.  This was because they believed that they could express their love for each other through material means.  This was a mistake, but it’s the thought that counts.

Jim and Della ironically each tried to get their love something special by giving up the most meaningful possession they had.  In Jim’s case, it was a watch.  In Della’s case, it was her hair.  Jim was shocked to come home to find Della’s short hair, because he had bought a gift for her hair.

"It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Ironically, Della sold her hair to buy Jim an especially expensive watch band.  She knew that his watch meant a lot to him, just like he knew how much her hair meant to her.  He didn’t resent her cutting her hair, he was just surprised because it rendered his gift useless.

Useless does not mean meaningless.  O’Henry comments on the beauty of the young couple’s selfless gifts, comparing them to the magi in the Christ story.

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. 

O’Henry refers to the Dillingham Youngs as “foolish children,” but the focus of the story is the irony of their gifts.  They were as wise as they were foolish.  They did not need to give up what they gave up to show their love, but in doing so, they gave each other a greater gift than anything material.

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What is a suitable alternate title for "The Gift of the Magi"?

I believe that the question is asking for an alternate title for O. Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi."  

You could really come up with just about anything as long as it relates to the story. Obviously, some titles will be better than others.

The story is about Jim and Della, so a possible title could be "Jim and Della." That's not that terrible of a title. I can think of several other stories that are titled after characters in the story. Thelma and Louise, Rocky Balboa, Bonnie and Clyde, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are all titles that feature character names only.  

You could base the title on the theme of selfless love. "A True Gift of Love" or "Selfless Love" could both work.  

You could even borrow Haddaway's "What is Love?" song title for the story. Of course, you would then get a really catchy song stuck in your head every time that you think of Jim and Della.  

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What's a theme for "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry?

The recurring theme in the "Gift of the Magi" is self-sacrifice.  Della and Jim are poor young people who are just trying to make ends meet.  Each one wants to give the other a nice Christmas present, but they do not have the means to do so.  Della sells her hair, which we are told is quite beautiful, in order to buy Jim a watch chain.  Jim sells his watch, which has been in the family for a long time, in order to buy Della some combs for her beautiful hair.  When they exchange gifts, they cannot use them.  However, generosity is at the heart of the story because these two gave their most prized possessions.  In the Bible story, the Magi (Three Wise Men) brought the infant Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh because these were the valuable things of that period.  Della and Jim gave the most valuable things they possessed, and that is what gives the story the themes of generosity and self-sacrifice.  

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What's a theme for "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry?

"The Gift of the Magi" is a Christmas story evidently intended to be published in the Christmas issue of a New York newspaper. As such, the story has a Christmas theme related to the spirit of giving. The theme hearkens back to one of the stories in the New Testament which is to be found in the King James Version of the Bible in Mark 12:41-44.

41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

The story of "The Widow's Two Mites" is also told in Luke 21:1-4.

In other words, it is the spirit behind the gift and not the gift itself that is important. Della and Jim Young illustrate this moral when they express their love for each other by giving everything they have at Christmas time. Della sacrifices her long, beautiful hair, and Jim sells his treasured pocket-watch in order to get enough money to buy each other Christmas presents. It is ironic that Jim no longer has a watch for the platinum fob Della gives him and Della no longer has the long hair to be held in place by the ornate tortoise-shell combs he buys for her. But what is important is that they love each other, and their gifts really only serve as symbols and proofs of their love, which is far more precious than any material objects.

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What is the "gift" referred to in "The Gift of the Magi"?

This is a good but difficult question, because of the word, "real."  All answers will be a matter of opinion.  Therefore, in my opinion, the real gift is a paradox.  It is the idea that giving is the best form of receiving. The books of Acts 20:35 in the New Testament offer this sentiment:

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

If we apply this insight to the text, then we can say that Jim and Della received so much, because they gave.  In other words, when they forgot about themselves and sought to give and they actually gave, they saw the priceless expression on each other.  Jim was filled with joy in the end in that he could give something to Della that would mean so much to her. Like wise, Della was filled with joy in that she could give something to Jim that would mean so much to him.  

The act of giving was the gift they received.  To increase the joy in another is the gift.  This is why that O. Henry said that they were wise. 

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What's a theme for "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry?

There are many themes in the short story, "Gift of the Magi."  For example, love, sacrifice, and generosity are all important themes.  However, if I had to pick the central theme and my favorite, I would pick the idea of self-forgetfulness. 

Both Jim and Della are thinking about each other, instead of themselves.  The proof of this is their desire to get gifts for one another by selling what is most valuable to them. 

Della sells her hair for Jim.  She wants to buy him a chain for his watch. Jim sells his watch to buy combs for Della's flowing hair.  Of course, in the end they possess gifts that they cannot use, but in the process they forget about themselves.  They learn the true meaning of Christmas - giving, generosity, and sacrifice.  For this reason, they are wise. 

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Who are the magi and what is the theme of The Gift of the Magi?

Let me give you the summary here that will answer many of your questions. 

First, the magi in the story are the wise Jim and Della. They are considered wise, because they gave gifts of sacrifice. In other words, they considered the needs of others more than their own needs. 

So, in their poverty, they sought to sell their most prized possessions to show their love for each other. 

Jim sold his prized pocket watch, and Della sold her beautiful hair. The irony here is that Jim knew that Della loved her hair. So, he bought her combs. Della knew that Jim loved his pocket watch. So, she bought him a chain for it. In the end, they had gifts that they could not use. But there is something beautiful about it, because it underlines sacrificial love. O. Henry chose to use the idea of Magi in short story, because they gave gift to Jesus in the New Testament. 

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What are the other themes of "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry besides love?

In O'Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi," another theme that is present but that exists in tandem with love is that of sacrifice for others.  Jim and Della don't have much in life, but they each do have one prized possession:  Della has beautiful hair that would be the envy and prize of any woman, and Jim has a fine gold watch that is a prized family heirloom.  Each desires to give the other a gift that will enhance the treasured possession of the other.

With Christmas approaching, Della finds that she hasn't managed to save enough of their meager income to purchase the gift she wants for Jim, so she makes the painful decision to sell her hair to supplement what she has.  This is a difficult decision because it means not only that she will have short, unremarkable hair, but she is also concerned that Jim will not find her attractive anymore.  She is willing to sacrifice her hair and open herself up to insecurities, however, because of her deep, abiding love for him.

Jim has watched his beloved wife admire a set of hair combs on numerous occasions, and he desperately wishes to give them to her for Christmas.  However, when finances fall short, he chooses to sacrifice his treasured watch to give Della her unspoken heart's desire.  This was a great sacrifice, for though he may someday have a fine watch again, no other would hold the sentimental value and family history that his does.

Much has been written and discussed concerning whose sacrifice was the greatest, but in the end it doesn't matter which gift we judge to have the greatest value.  Each unselfishly gave the one thing that was most precious - nothing could have been harder for each of them to set aside for the love of one another.

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What is important about the title of O. Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi"?

This is a good question. The idea of the magi comes out at the end of the story. O. Henry calls Della and Jim wise, like the magi from the story of Jesus' birth.

In light of this, we need to know the context of the gospel story. In Matthew 2:1-12, we read about the magi. These are wise men that come from the east following a star to pay homage to the baby Jesus. They come from a far distance and they give gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and they leave. We hear nothing more about these magi.

O. Henry calls Della and Jim wise like the magi, because they give each other costly gifts. In the story, Della cuts her hair and sells it to buy Jim a chain for his watch and Jim sells his watch to buy Della combs for her hair. In the end, it does not matter that they both have gifts they cannot use, because the wisdom here is not in receiving gifts, but in the giving of them. This is why they are wise.

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What is the significance of the title "The Gift of the Magi"?

This is a good question. The story by O. Henry is wonderful. In fact, the story is so moving that people often forget to ask what the title has to do with the story. The best way to answer this question is to quote the last few lines of the short story, where the title appear.

"The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. 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. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi."

O. Henry is taking this portion from the New Testament, where anumber of magi from the East came to bear gifts to the baby Jesus. According to the biblical story, they travel far an wide and gave gifts of myrrh, frankincense, and gold. O. Henry takes this episode and basically shows the beauty of giving. As he says, it is wise to give, even if the giving is to your own hurt. Part of the reason for this, I suspect, is because by giving you actually receive.

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What would be another possible title for "The Gift of the Magi"?

Great question! When thinking about this kind of question, we need to remember that the title of short stories is always explicitly linked to the central theme of the stories concerned. In the case of "The Gift of the Magi," we can see how the title relates to the final paragraph of the story, when the narrator comments upon the original tradition of giving gifts at Christmas and how, even though some might say they were foolish, it is Jim and Della who most closely resemble the original intention of giving gifts and what it means in terms of sacrifice. This is of course one of the central themes, and I think it is particularly relevant in a time when we have so much and our lives are dominated by materialism. Whilst we do give a lot at Christmas, hardly any of that giving is sacrificial, and is rather an overflowing of what we already have. Perhaps then an alternative title could focus on this theme and meaning of the story by challenging us concerning our habits at Christmas. I am thinking of a title like "The Art of Sacrifice," or even something as simple as "Sacrificial Love." What do you think?

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What is the historical background of "The Gift of the Magi"?

O. Henry did not allude to the historical period which was the setting of his short stories directly because many of the relationships of characters are timeless; in addition, none of the external happenings of the times are very relevant to his stories.  However, the story of Jim and Della probably is set in New York in the early 1900s, a time when money was scare with the federal debt brought about by the San Francisco earthquake.

His short story "The Gift of the Magi"has a title which alludes to the visitation of the wise men, or magi, who brought gifts to the baby savior two millenniums ago.  The Magi are a metaphor for Jim and Della  Besides this biblical allusion, there are two others:  that of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. Famous for her wealth and beauty, Queen Sheba, having heard of Solomon's reputation for wisdom and gold, tested him with hard questions.  In the story, Della's beautiful tresses are compared to the loveliness of Sheba's hair, and King Solomon's treasures are set in contrast to the beauty of Jim's watch.

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How does the author convey the theme in "The Gift of the Magi"?

Unlike most stories, the theme is overtly stated in "The Gift of the Magi."  In the last paragraph O. Henry writes,

And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children...who must unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house.  ...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...They are the Magi.

In other words, O. Henry directly states his lesson:  To sacrifice and give of oneself is the greatest of all gifts.  Unselfish love is the greatest; it is the gift of the Magi.

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What is the true "gift" in "The Gift of the Magi"?

Have you ever heard the expression "It's the thought that counts"? That's the gist of this story. Jim and Della loved each other so much that each was willing to give up the material thing that was most precious to them in order to buy a gift for the other. In the end, neither of them could use the gift they received, but it didn't matter. The love that inspired them to do something special for each other was the true gift.

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