“The Gift of Magi” Summary and Study Guide

A Short Story By O’ Henry


Della, the wife of Jim, wanted to gave him a gift on Christmas but she was having “One dollar and eighty seven cents” which she saved by making close dealing with the vegetable man and butcher.

Della, thought nothing but weeping because she couldn’t manage some good gift for her Jim in  One dollar and eighty seven cents. She realized that   ” Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles but sniffles are more in numbers”

They were living in a furnished flat at Dollar 8 per week. At the gate there were a useless letter box and electrical bell a name plate ” Mr. James Dillingham Young”,  was looking ironical.

Recently, Jim was earning Dollar $30 per week but now his income had shrunk to $20. Mr. James was called as Jim when he came by her wife Della.

Della, finishing her cry, stood near the window looking outside. She was thinking about her saving which was hardly enough to purchase some suitable gift for Jim on coming Christmas.

She came in front of a glass and let her hair to fall down, there were two things in their house on which they used to be proud; Della’s beautiful hair and Jim’s watch was passed by him from his father who got it from Jim’s grandfather. Had King Solomon been living with them in their house Jim would have always pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard envy. Same was with the Della’s hair, she would have liked to show his beautiful hair to Queen of Sheba, if she had been with them.

She stepped out and she stopped at a place to read the signboard on which this was written that ” Mrs. Madame Sofronie buys hair ” she ran reached to her shop asked her to tell the cost of her hair, and told her that she would offer 20 dollars for her hairs.

Della asked her to give her $20 at once.

Now having $21.87, she went to market searching every shop in order to buy a beautiful gist for her Jim.

At last she selected one. On a shop .it was a platinum chair, very simple and suitable for Jim’s watch which was having an old leather strap. As soon as she saw it she decided to buy it and she paid $21 for it.

By reaching home, she worked at her head by applying curls in order to avoid looking odd.

She was feeling that Jim would not like her in this condition .at 10’Oclock as the coffee was ready, Jim reached. Della prayed that Jim would not dislike her.

In his miserable condition due to poverty Jim started to look at Della. He started at her with a peculiar expression on his face. Della became confused and told him that she had out off her hair and sold them in order to get some good gift on Christmas for him.

When Jim heard these words he became sad and asked again to confirm that she really sold her hair. Della with a thought that Jim would forget about the loss of her hair, when he would see the beautiful chain for his watch, offered this chain to Jim but she was amazed to know that he has sold his watch to get beautiful comb for Della’s hair.

Upon this Jim said that the both gifts are really wonderful so keep them away and let us celebrate our Christmas.

According to the writer that both of them were Magi the people who were famous for their beautiful gifts which they present to the Christ. He admits that among all the people who get and receive the gifts, their gift were nicer.



Wealth and Poverty:

Poverty is the main theme in the story. However O’ Henry uses for fetched comparison to show poignant description of their poverty

“One dour and eighty-seven cents. That as well”

These lines quickly give the idea that this is not a lot of money. When narrator say “That was all” we get a better understanding of their poverty. When we witness Della’s embarrassment. She must haggle for every household purchase to save sixty cents worth of pennies and she is ashamed of the necessity and poverty it indicates.

“A furnished flat at $8 per week. It didn’t exactly beggar description. But it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad”

O’ Henry is describing true picture of their poverty, the situation of house and their living standards all depicts the condition of being living hand to mouth.

Henry Contrast the poverty of the young’s to the vast wealth and riches of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba. He shares with readers the two small treasures of the household and contrasts the value of wealth that Solomon and Queen have. Yet despite the obvious poverty and meagerness of these treasures, Henry shows that what Jim and Della have is of more value than any priceless treasure locked up in a store house.

Major theme in the story is generosity clearly, anyone that focuses on the gift giving as major plot line must deal with concept of generosity deeper than superficial generosity of giving gift that comes easily. He is interested in generosity born out of a love so deep it transcends reason or wisdom, love, such as we see between Della and Jim.

Both Jim and Della sell their personal treasure in order to enhance the treasure of the other. Della sells her in order to buy a watch chain for Jim’s only valuable inheritance. Jim sells his watch in order to enhance Della’s crowning glory. The narrator comments on their actions by saying

“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 greater treasures of their house.”


In the paragraph where we are introduced to Jim, the writer gives us the idea of Della’s exuberant affection for Jim when he says,

“Whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called ‘Jim’ and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good?”

When the narrator writes ” Which is all very good”, he hunts that there must be more in marriage and in some way Jim sums it up when he sees his gift from Della and says,

“They’re too nice to use just at present, I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs.”

This statement seems a natural commentary on the useless of gifts since then intended purpose has been chronically removed. However Jim’s remark is also a comment on the value of gifts. They are two nice only because of the money, they represent but also because of the sacrificial love, they represent self sacrifice is the name of love is the wisest gift.


The two main characters in “Gift Of Magi” are the husband and wife who give up their most precious possessions to be able to afford gifts for each other on Christmas Eve. The story is about sacrifice in love, and the story narrator assure us that in their willingness to give up all they have, they have proven themselves the wisest of all gift givers. It might remain unclear, though, exactly what their sacrifice has accomplished, or how it has affected them.

“Will you buy my hair” asked Della?

“Twenty Dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practiced hand, “Give it to me quick”, said Della.

These lines shows enthusiastic style of Della as she was very aggressive to buy the gift for Jim, and she is ready to sale her precious hair

“I sold the watch to get money to buy you combs”

The sacrifice is done by both partners and Jim has sold his only precious inheritance, to buy gift for Della.

The last lines of story greatly exemplify their spirit of love and sacrifice.

“But in the last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.”

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