Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Gift of the Magi by O'Henry

The Gift of the Magi is the story of Mr. and Mrs. James Dillingham Young, otherwise known as Jim and Della. It is Christmas Eve and all the money that Della has scrimped and saved for Jim’s gift totals one dollar and eight-seven cents.

The Young’s are very poor; a point that the narrator quickly establishes by describing the shabby estate of their apartment and by the mention of a salary that has shrunken from $30 a week to $20 a week. Della has humiliated herself by haggling at the shops and managed to scrimp away 60 cents of the $1.87 in pennies.

Della has a fit of self-pity as she tries to determine how to buy Jim a worthy gift when suddenly she jumps up and views herself in the pier glass. She lets down her glorious hair; hair that is the pride and joy of both Della and Jim. According to the narrator, Della and Jim have two possessions that are the treasures of the household, Della’s hair and Jim’s watch, which is an inheritance from his grandfather. The narrator underscores the value of these treasures by saying that King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba would be jealous of them despite their own immense wealth.

Quickly, before she loses her nerve, Della leaves the house and sells her hair to Mne. Sofronie for $20. Then she races around town looking for the perfect gift. She finds it in a platinum watch chain, which she pays $21 for. She hurries home and suddenly realizes what she has done. Della prepares supper and tries to fix her hair so that Jim will not be too upset by her appearance.

When Jim comes home, his response is none of the responses, which Della had anticipated. He seems dumbstruck but Della cannot figure out why. Finally, after assuring her that he loves her no matter what, Jim gives her the gift he bought for her. It is a pair of tortoise shell combs that Della has long coveted. Della is thrilled but her joy is quickly followed by sorrow as she realizes she has no hair to wear the combs in. She resolves her feelings by telling Jim that her hair grows fast.

Suddenly, Della remembers her gift to Jim, which she quickly presents to him. Jim’s response is to smile and tell Della that he sold the watch to buy the combs and that perhaps they should put their gifts up and save them for a later time.

The narrator closes the account with a short homily about how the gifts of Della and Jim are as wise as the gifts that the magi brought Christ (the magi being the first givers of Christmas gifts) because their gifts were given out of surrendered treasures and a loving heart.

Wow! What a story to treasure and learn from! How many of us truly give gifts of the heart like Jim and Della? This is a beautiful depiction of love between two people. What a Christ-like love... both caring so much for the other that they'd give their prized possession in order to bring a special gift to the one they love! I think it shows how we can learn through the hard times. If they had not been struggling financially, they might not have known the depth of the love of the other and the length they were willing to go to bestow a gift to them.
What a blessing to know someone loves you so much. It moves me to the core! But you know... we all have someone who loves us that much! Jesus was willing to give himself completely, to the point of dying on the cross, just for us. We, who are so undeserving... yet He did it anyway. Take a moment to remember the gift that Jesus gave for you: His Life.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights..." James 1:17 NIV

** I thought of posting the entire story since I found it online at Project Gutenburg but it was kind of lengthy for a blog post. This summary of this great story was found HERE. I love this book! If you want to buy a copy of your own check out

1 comment:

Big Doofus said...

It's one of my favorite stories. Thanks for posting it.