Last Updated 07 Jan 2023

The Symbol of the Gifts and the Young Couple in The Gift of the Magi, a Short Story by O. Henry

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The Magi are three wise men in the Bible who are considered to go on a long journey to bring sacrificial gifts to the son of Christ. Their gifts are valuable ingredients used in developing medicines so they are not only practical but precious as well. When making a comparison between the couple and the Magi, the author honestly confirms it is a lame allusion before concluding they are the Magi. With a humorous description "...two foolish children in a flat... most unwisely sacrificed for each other," O. Henry points out the reason for that inappropriate comparison. Della sells his beautiful long hair to buy Jim a chain for his watch and ironically, Jim sells his watch to buy Della a comb.

Both of them buy each other a gift that is ultimately useless. Obviously they waste money on things which cannot be used while every penny saved every day is extremely valuable to them. From an entirely practical perspective, their gifts do not make any sense. Calling the couple "foolish children”, O. Henry brings funny factors to his story to ease the seriousness of the characters' situation. Moreover, it proves that the author still remarks the couple with sincere respect and sympathy because "foolish children" means that they are not mature enough to carefully and wisely behave. And in some cases, they do not deserve being criticized. Hence, with the funny description of the two young lovers' foolishness, the writer indicates his sympathy for the impoverished couple.

More humanely, the author praises them as the Magi in the last several sentences when he finds out the real value inside their presents. The chain and comb may be poor in material value but absolutely rich in love and sacrifice of the couple. Both Della and Jim unselfishly give "their greatest treasures" to each other. To make this sacrifice is not easy at all, but both of them defeat their own selfishness to think of the other not themselves. This highlights how deep in love they are despite their financial difficulties. Materially, neither Della nor Jim can be considered wealthy but their richness is their great love, generosity and sacrifice for each other which are far beyond monetary value. That makes their useless gifts incredibly priceless after all. The couple is described as being foolish but sometimes it requires foolishness to arrive at wisdom.

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In the several last sentences, the word "wisest❞ used to honor the couple is repeated three times to emphasize and intensify the author's compliment. That makes the images of Della and Jim impressively bright in O. Henry's work. It is strongly believed that the beauty is inside impoverished people who are rich in love and sacrifice. This is humane value included in "The gift of the Magi". That is the reason why O. Henry compared Della and Jim to the Magi and named his work "The gift of the Magi".

In conclusion, the young couple, Della and Jim, is compared to the Magi as they sacrifice their most precious things for each other in the Christmas day. Their gifts symbolize their deep love for each other. Even in the extreme poverty, they are rich.

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