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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Why are Jim and Della in "The Gift of the Magi" called foolish, yet the wisest gift givers?

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Many would argue that they were incredibly foolish to give up that which was most precious to them.  Delia loved her hair and it was renowned as being quite beautiful.  Jim was very proud of his watch and it had been handed down through his family so it wasn't something to be sold lightly.  So on the surface, their exchange was foolish as they ended up with, practically speaking, useless gifts.

Of course the wisdom of their exchange was that it showed such great love for the recipient of the gift.  A young couple, struggling to make ends meet sacrifice everything for each other, likely demonstrating a commitment and willingness to sacrifice that will see them through any kind of tough times together.  Perhaps this is why they are later said to have been so wise.

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