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O Henry: The Gift of the Magi.

Author: Introduction

Born on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina, William Sidney Porter is a well-known American writer. He was raised up by his grandmother and aunt, as his mother pass away when he was three years old. In the hunt of work, he left school when he was fifteen and did the job of a bank clerk.

He was suspect of fraud in 1896. Runaway from the law to New Orleans and later to Honduras. He returned to the US when he came to knew that his wife was dying, and surrendered to the police.

O Henry was found guilty of stealing funds from the bank that employed him and with this, he was sentenced to 5 years in jail. This was the time when he wrote most of the short stories while in the prison, to upkeep his daughter Margaret. In 1899 he first published his story "Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking" with a false name, Olivier Henry.


Later changed his pen name to O. Henry as he did not want his readers to know of his frauds and that he was in jail.

Almost 12 stories were published while he was in prison. Later he was released from the prison two years before for his good behaviour.

His first collection of stories was "Cabbages and Kings" (1904). The next collection, "The Four Million" (1906), included well-known stories "The Gift of the Magi", "The Skylight Room" and "The Green Door".

What is the writing style of O. Henry?

O. Henry was an American writer whose short stories are known for humour, puns and cunning twist endings.

A vibrant and best at using metaphor, metonymy, irony, paronomasia and exaggeration to make the story full entertaining.

He is said to be the master at giving surprise endings. The stagy stories with endings out of the expectation of the readers.

Another writing style to be found in the use of comedy and tragedy along with the weepy smile.


The story “The Gift of The Magi” takes place at Della and Jim’s house when Della was counting her money to buy a perfect present for Jim. The time setting of the story is well-thought-out to be in a Christmas Eve and it was clarified that Della was confused about what she should buy as Christmas present for Jim on the following day.

Subsequent, we see at Madame Sofronie’s shop when Della as a final point absolute to cut her hair off and sold it to Madame Sofronie as she would get $20 from this.

After checking several shops, lastly, there was one store where Della found the platinum fob chain and thought to be the right present for Jim.

In the end, Jim too bought a beautiful comb for Della as well, but he sells his gold watch. The story talks about true love, sacrifice and selflessness.

A look at the themes.

1. Poverty: In the story we see poverty coming up to be a major theme. The glimpse of this is seen at the opening of the story in the portrayal of their flat and neighbourhood.

The mailbox and the doorbell are broken. Also, Jim earns only $20 a week and pays a rent of $8 a week. Their dressing too talks about their poverty.

Jim too is said to be wearing an old overcoat and does not have money to buy gloves even in the extreme winter. Della's jacket and hat are both old, but she does not have enough money to get another one.

2. Sacrifice: The theme of sacrifice also circles around the story. We see how Della sacrifices her beautiful long hair to buy Christmas gift for her husband Jim.

It took no time for her to think of vending her long hair and buy a gift with the extra money earned. She did not worried about how less attractive she might look.

On the other hand Jim to sold his gold ancestral watch to buy the Christmas gift for Della. As it was Christmas they did not want to disappoint each other and hence sacrificed their most loved possession.

3. True love: “The Gift of the Magi” sets the instance of true love for the readers. Della manages everything without complaining of poverty. Out of so many difficulties, she desires to be happy and make the Christmas evening cheerful for her husband.

Jim too showed the readers that the appearances like hair, face are temporary. He loved Della the same way as he did before. The short hair too made Della look attractive in her own way.


Why the title “The Gift of the Magi”?

Magi is the group of three wise men who went to the infant Jesus to offer him gifts at his birth. In the story, Della and Jim are the magi for each other, guided by their wisdom.

They sold their loved possession for the happiness of each other. "Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest." the narrator says these lines to put Jim and Della correspondent to the Magi. The value is not in the material things, but the sacrifice and true love.

"Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating."

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