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Book Review: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

On several occasions and festivals people tend to follow the trend of gifting; it is something inherent about humans. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry is a very popular short story about gifting by sacrificing one’s prized possessions. The story introduces us to a married couple, Della and her husband Jim (also known as James). In the story it is shown that they are poor and living in a small apartment. Well, they have two things that are their prized possessions: Jim’s gold pocket watch (he got it from his ancestors), and Della’s long beautiful hair. The eve of Christmas is round the corner. The challenge is of buying gift for each other. After minus all bills, Della can afford only 1.87 dollars – and that’s too less amount to buy an impressive gift for her husband Jim.


One cold day of December, she goes out to check about gifts. She finds everything very expensive. Upon returning home, she stands before the mirror and keenly observes her knee-length hair. She goes again out and reads a sign: “Mme. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.”  Della, without a thought, goes running there and has her hair cut to sell at 20 dollars. Next, she buys a premium fob chain for Jim’s gold pocket watch. That costs her around 21 dollars. At home, she tries to hide the difference arising because of haircut. When Jim comes home, he makes out the difference, and feels sad upon seeing her without long hair. Della admits that she has sold her hair to buy a gift for him. Before she can present her gift, Jim softly takes out a set of premium combs from his overcoat for her. She had always longed for it – but now it looks useless, as she does not have long hair anymore.

Soon, Della takes out a premium fob chain for Jim’s gold watch. Well, Jim says that he has sold his watch to buy that gift of premium combs for her. That also proves to be useless gift at the moment. It is an irony that their gifts go useless, but at the same time they bought gifts sacrificing their own prized possessions. Hence, their gifts were borne out of love and selflessness. They are considered wiser than Magi who, according to Bible, gifted gifts to the new born Jesus.

It is clear that the story fits as best examples of irony literature. Well, the concurrent themes of the story are tradition of gifting, selflessness, love and respect in married life.

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