The Gift of the Magi
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
On Christmas Eve, Della Young has only $1.87 to spend on a Christmas gift for her husband, Jim. Della and Jim don't have much in the way of material possessions, but the two take great pride in Jim's gold watch, which belonged to his grandfather, and Della's long brown hair that flows below her knees.
Della has an idea. She goes to Madame Sofronie, who cuts and buys hair for $20. Della trades her hair for the money and then purchases a platinum fob chain with it. Then she hurries home, curls her hair and prepares the house for Jim's homecoming.
When Jim arrives, he sees Della and looks stunned. This scares her so she quickly explains that she cut her hair to buy him a present and reassures him that her hair will grow back. But Jim can't believe her hair is gone.
Finally he gives her a hug and says that an external change in Della could not make him love her less. He tosses a package on the table and asks her to open it. In it, she finds an expensive set of combs made from tortoise shell. They have jeweled rims. She had been longing for these combs for some time.
Through tears, she tells Jim that her hair will grow back, so the combs will be well used. Then she gives him his present and asks for his gold watch so she can attach the chain. Instead of giving her his watch, Jim sits on the couch and smiles. He tells her that he sold his watch to buy her combs.
The narrator compares the sacrificial giving of these two as being wise and equates them to the magi who gave their gifts to a newborn in a manger.
Before Della shows Jim her cut hair, she says a prayer asking God to help Jim think she's still pretty. Then there is the mention of magi being wise and bringing valuable gifts to the "Babe in the manger."
Other Belief Systems
When Jim hugs Della, the narrator asks the reader to look away for 10 seconds to give the two a moment of privacy.
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Readability Age Range
14 and up
First published in The New York Sunday World; later published in O. Henry Anthology The Four Million; the version reviewed is in the public domain.