Lovely Short Story “The Gift of the Magi ” by William Sydney Porter

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‘The Gift of the Magi” is a short story written by William Sydney Porter. In ‘The Gift of the Magi,” Della Young, a young woman intends to buy Jim, her husband, a Christmas gift, but she is struggling financially as she only has one dollar and eighty-seven cents. In order to afford the fob chain for Jim’s prized watch, Della decides to sell her long beautiful hair that her husband loves. When Jim comes home, he is surprised and sad to learn that Della’s beautiful hair is missing. Jim offers her his gift: expensive jeweled combs that Della worships but no longer need. Jim admits that he sells his watch to buy the combs for his wife. The couple is overcome with love as they realize that they unwisely sacrifice their most prized possessions for one another. The theme of ‘The Gift of the Magi” is that love is very powerful that a couple willing to sacrifice something precious to them for the sake of each other.

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The central character of ‘The Gift of Magi” is Della, or Mrs. James Dillingham Young, a young wife to Jim. A couple is financially poor; Della spends most of her day in a cramped flat, as ‘mistress of the home”( ). However, poverty cannot stop Della from deeply in love with her husband. Della is distraught that Christmas is coming, and she bursts into tears when she realizes how little of her budget she saves for months to buy her husband his Christmas present. In the earlier of the story, ‘Only $1.87 to buy a present of Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling “ something for just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim”(1147).

Della is completely dedicated to ‘her Jim” as she spends a great amount of time just thinking about what to give him. Jim in Della’s eyes is ‘rare and fine,” deserving of something exceptional. The genuine love of Della for her husband that eventually leads her to sell her hair to afford a Christmas present. When Jim comes home and surprisingly sees her hair missing, Della states, ‘I had my hair cut off and sold it. I couldn’t live through Christmas without giving you a gift. My hair will grow again. You won’t care, will you? My hair grows very fast. It’s Christmas, Jim. Let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice “ what a beautiful, nice gift I got for you” (1148). Della is willing to sacrifices her most prideful and beautiful possession – her hair “ to afford a nice present for Jim. Her willingness to sacrifice for Jim clearly express the depth of her love.

Della’s husband, Jim, or Mr. James Dillingham Young, severe young man. He is twenty-two years old. Jim is a hard-working man as he works long hours, but his salary is low. The couple struggles to pay the expenses of their small flat as Jim’s salary drops from $30 to $20 a week. Therefore, Jim’s appearance is described as ‘thin,” ‘needed a new coat” and ‘had nothing to cover his cold hands. The only thing keeps Jim going is his lovely wife, Della. Jim’s most prized possession is the gold watch that he receives from his father. However, he eventually sells the watch to afford a present for his wife, ‘let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep them a while. They are too nice to use just at present. I

sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs”(1150). Jim reveals that he makes the same sacrifice as Della. Jim does not seem to be upset by the sacrifice itself, nor even at its unexpected results. His action and reaction clearly show that Jim loves and values his wife more than his prideful gold watch. When the couple discovers that both sell their most valuable treasures to buy a wonderful gift for each other, Jim reacts, ‘Don’t make any mistake, Dell. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less.” (1149). Jim does not care about Della’s loss of her most beautiful feature. He loves Della more than anything, and his love is beyond her looks. Jim speaks of Della as ‘my girl,” just as she thought of him as ‘her Jim,” these gestures dramatically shows their unique love.

‘The Gift of Magi” has both external and internal conflict. The external conflict is the conflict between Della and Jim face against their poverty. The conflict is the central conflict as the conflict lead to the main event of the story. The major source of the external conflict is described early in the story, as Della faces against the poverty, ‘ Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a gift … Everything had cost more than she had expected. It always happened like that .” (1147). The couple wrestles with their low budget; therefore, they barely have enough money to buy each other a pricey gift for each other. The conflict also shows the power of love; despite their poverty, they are still deeply in love and willing to sacrifice for the sake of each other. This conflict is important in the story because it leads to the turning point as Della and Jim both sell their valuable possession in order to afford a gift for each one.

The inner conflict of the story is when Della intends to sell her hair to gain money for the present. The author describes the moment of Della before she has her haircut, ‘ So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her, shining like a cascade of brown waters …. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet”(1148). Della’s tears are evidence of the cost of this conflict when she decides to sacrifice her ‘mighty pride” possession for the sake of her husband, so she can buy him the present that she wants for Christmas. Her inner clearly shows the importance of her love to Jim regardless.

The point of view of ‘The Gift of the Magi” is third-person limited omniscient. The narrator is unlikely another character in the story and does not expand his or her view beyond Della’s. The narrator is not neutral; he or she has a sympathy with the young couple because of their poverty, particularly in part, ‘She had put aside as much as she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week is not much. Everything had cost more than she had expected. It always happened like that.” (1147). On the other hand, the narrator also sympathizes with Jim, calls him a ‘poor fellow” who is ‘only twenty-two “ and to be burdened with a family!”(1149).

The importance of the story’s third-person point of view helps the reader understands the characters’ position and situation without involving in the actual events; also, the method emphasizes the fact that the narrator knows and sees more than the character themselves. In the end, the narrator calls both Della and Jim ‘not wise” in their actions, but calls them ‘they are wisest” as ‘two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house” (1150). The narrator transforms into the first person on a few occasions in order to communicate the audience the theme and meaning of the story. It allows the narrator in the final paragraph to describe the major theme “ love is compelling that makes ‘two foolish children” sacrifices their most valuable possession for each other.

‘The Gift of the Magi” takes place in the flat of the two main characters, Della and Jim. The couple’s poverty is shaped clearly as the narrator describes their flat as small, ‘A furnished flat at $8 per week”, and ‘pier-glass between the windows of the room”(1147). However, the most important setting of the story is the setting of time, which is Christmas Eve. It is necessary because it shows the desperation that the couple has when it comes to buying meaningful Christmas gifts for each other. The couple expresses their true love for each other and sacrifices themselves. From this perspective, they underline the true meaning of Christmas, ‘ They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication.” (1150). Ultimately, Christmas is an important setting because it contributes the inspiration for the couple as their sacrification for each other, and it is a testament to their powerful love for each other.

‘The Gift of the Magi” is the lovely short story, and it proves the meaningful love that the couple can willing to sacrifice for the sake of each other for their love. Della and Jim, ‘who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house(1150)” are presented as the magi “ the wisest and loveliest among the children of this world.

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Lovely Short Story "The Gift of the Magi " by William Sydney Porter. (2020, Dec 18). Retrieved February 8, 2023 , from

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