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

Start Free Trial

What is the relationship between the main characters in "The Gift of the Magi" and The Magi?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Della and Jim enjoy a close, loving relationship as husband and wife. What they lack in money, they more than make up for in love. With Christmas coming up, they want to express their love in time-honored fashion through the exchange of gifts. Unfortunately, because Della and Jim are so poor, they have to resort to desperate measures to buy each other Christmas presents. Della sells some of her beautiful locks of hair to a fancy salon to buy Jim a gold watch-chain. For his part, Jim sells his gold pocket-watch to buy Della a set of fancy combs that she has so long admired.

Although both Jim and Della have effectively ended up with useless gifts, the love they share remains stronger than ever. They realize that this love is so much more important than any gift, or anything else that money can buy. And that's what makes them wise, just like the Magi, or three wise men, who made their way to Bethlehem to bestow gifts upon the baby Jesus.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The magi were three kings who traveled to bring gifts to the baby Jesus in the Biblical telling of his birth.  They sacrificed their time to travel a great distance to give their gifts.  In The Gift of the Magi, the two main characters sacrificed in order to give each other a gift.  The characters were similar to the three magi because of sacrifice and the desire to give a special gift.  

Della and Jim were husband and wife.  Jim had a treasured pocket watch, which had been passed down for generations until it became his.  He wore it on a worn leather strap because it was all he could afford.  Della had long, beautiful hair.  Both she and Jim admired her long locks.  Being very poor, Della and Jim could not afford to spend much on gifts for each other.  Della sold her hair to buy a platinum watch chain for Jim.  Jim sold his watch to buy combs for Della's hair.  This was their sacrifice.  At the end of the story, O. Henry compared them to the magi.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial