‘The Gift of the Magi’ is a short story written by O. Henry. It was published in a New York newspaper and in a collection, The Four Million, in 1906. It is about a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Dillingham Young, also identified as James and Della and the sacrifices they make for each other. The subject matter of the story is very relevant to these modern times as its themes are topics that people can easily relate. I think the spirit of giving is one that has embedded itself among humankind since the time of the birth of Christ.

We read about how the magi presented gifts to the newborn and since Christmas celebrates his birth, the tradition of giving has been carried from one generation to the other until now. The story has succeeded in bringing out the value of generosity towards one another.

The setting is on the eve of Christmas, and each spouse is eager to buy the other a present.

However due to their financial state none feels they can afford worthy presents thus resorting to giving up their most valuable possessions. Other than each other, the two things they take most pride in are Della’s long beautiful hair and James’ gold watch, passed on to him by his father as an heirloom (Henry, 1967). Having saved only a little amount of money by that time, Della does not want to disappoint her beloved husband. She therefore goes into town where she cuts off her hair and sells it, earning her enough money to buy James a chain for his watch.

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Later when James arrives home from work, he stares fixedly at Della’s hair, prompting her to feel that he is upset. He then gives Della her present, which reveals his reason for being caught off guard. It is a set of combs for Della to use on her hair, which unfortunately she has cut off. When James sees his present, he falls back onto the chair and requests that they put away the presents for a while for he had just sold his watch to buy Della her combs.

The Gift Analysis

The meaning of the story can be derived from its themes. It is mainly about giving. The couple exhibits generosity towards each other by offering to buy themselves Christmas gifts. However, this theme is greatly affected by that of poverty and wealth. As a theme, it is illustrated by the low income that James earns which proves insufficient for their daily needs. The lack of money is what causes them to sacrifice their treasured possessions to buy each other presents. The love the two show for one another is also another theme in this story. It does not matter that they no longer have what they had always valued for as long as both feel content with being by each other’s side.


The organization of this work is in a progressive manner whereby topic phrases mostly appear at the beginning of sentences (Smith, 2003). This serves the purpose of keeping the reader interested with the story while still maintaining its flow. The works of style include the use of both an omnipresent narrator and the author himself. This shift in modes helps to bring the reader to certain conclusions about situations in the story. The story has an appeal to all audiences. This is because the context of the story traverses through all generations and still manages to deliver accordingly. Analyzing this story helps to create a better understanding of it together with the themes it presents. One gets to see how various aspects in the writing of the story have aided in bringing out its message and created a picture of how narratives are written.


Henry O. (1967). The Gift of the Magi: And Five Other Stories. Virginia: Library of Alexandria.

Smith, C. S. (2003). Modes of discourse: The local structure of texts. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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The Gift Analysis. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-analysis-of-the-gift-of-the-magic/

The Gift Analysis
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