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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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.

Christian Beliefs

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


Authority Roles





When Jim hugs Della, the narrator asks the reader to look away for 10 seconds to give the two a moment of privacy.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

14 and up


O. Henry






Record Label



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.


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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