Short Story “The Gift of the Magi”

There is something almost beautiful in belonging to someone who sees you as a part of him. This eye-opening story about a beautiful relationship between these two people who were placed in a grimy and poverty-stricken setting shows what is truly valuable. In the short story “The Gift of the Magi” the setting becomes an essential aspect of who these people are, proving that poverty does not define the value of a gift or a person.

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When the story begins by stating the drastically low amount of money that Della had to spend on the gift for her husband the author proves that he expects the reader to understand that this is probably set in a part of history in which America was in a great depression. Even though the exact period goes unstated the fact that it’s the holidays exposes the motivation behind this gift-giving spirit and the seemingly snowy atmosphere. Yes, Della admits the hardships of the meeting ends meet. She admits that they can barely survive and that she spends months collecting money from all of the shop owners and many businesses around her. This gives insight into the devastating poverty they were in along with the image of a dirty urban setting. She also uses her surrounding to prove the value of her precious treasure, her hair, to the reader. This proves that if the setting was drastically changed then the value of her treasure would most likely go down in the eyes of the readers. This proves to be true in the case of her husband as well. When she explains that her husband’s most precious treasures were the gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s (and) Della’s hair. She decided that the value of his gift was greater than her treasure and in the end, he decided that his own was of lesser value compared to Della’s happiness. The setting has continued to manifest its significance in the lives of the characters and its contribution to the meaning of the work as a whole.

What defines the value of a person:

  • Their kindness.
  • Their money.
  • Their ability to prosper even in grueling conditions.
  • Or their sensibility.

Jim and Della’s home gives us the answer. It claims that the greatest gift is one made wisely. It seems silly and dumb that these people who unwisely sacrificed the greatest treasures of their house are the wise Magi. Their sagesgrueling nature allowed them to gain new and even more valuable treasures proving that among the poverty they were the richest of heart and love.

To try and change the setting would decrease the value of these people as a whole:

  • Would their gifts be different if they had money?
  • Would they be of any less value?
  • Would they be magi?

Once again, the setting contributes to highlighting and defining the meaning of the work as a whole. Commodities such as money and beauty come and go, fades away with time,  define, and are worth nothing, but true treasures last forever in the hearts of the wise. The setting is essential to proving what truly matters is love. Poverty tests the strength of an individual, not the value.

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Short Story "The Gift of the Magi". (2020, Nov 02). Retrieved August 16, 2022 , from
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