Literary Analysis: The Gift of the Magi

Literary Analysis: The Gift of the Magi

In O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi,” an impoverished, young couple whose love knows no bounds is willing to give up their most, and more crucially, their only, priceless things in order to discover the ideal Christmas presents for one another. They demonstrate that they are the wisest of all gift-givers by being willing to give everything they possess—just as wise as the Magi. Because they achieve the purity of true love, which is more important than anything in this world, by giving up their most prized assets. The New York Sunday World published the tale in December 1905, and O later featured it.

The Four Million, a collection of short stories by Henry, was published in 1906. The timeless classic “The Gift of the Magi” conveys the message that true love is born out of sacrifice and embodies the true Christmas spirit. It also gives a distinctive ironic twist and draws on rich biblical imagery.

O. Henry uses irony as a literary tactic in “The Gift of the Magi” to reveal the sad-sweet tale of the Dillinghams. With Christmas just around the horizon, Della believes that she must show her husband how much she loves him by giving him the most ideal present she can find. However, she had only been able to save $1.87, which was insufficient for what she had hoped to.

The gifts’ seeming uselessness is made all the more ironic by the fact that they were created out of love and sacrifice, two qualities that characterise the genuine spirit of Christmas. Jim and Della liquidated their most expensive possessions to provide thoughtful presents for one another. Even while the presents were priceless on their own, they were useless without the priceless assets they had given up. Two children who “most foolishly sacrificed for each other the finest jewels of their family,” according to Henry (Henry, 1905). Ironically, although first appearing dumb, the young couple ended up presenting gifts that revealed their wisdom on par with the Magi, as Henry goes on to say, “of those who give and receive gifts, such as they are the smartest.” The phrase “The Gift of the Magi” refers to the wise men/kings from the East who are credited with starting the Christmas gift-giving custom by bestowing priceless gifts upon the newborn Jesus. Despite their limited resources, Della and Jim are so in love with one another that they are willing to give up all for them. Although they may appear dumb to the outside world, in the eyes of the Lord their act of sacrifice is infused with the Magi’s wisdom since the essence of true love is giving up one’s necessities for the one you love. O is motivated by the genuine Christmas spirit of love and service.


O. Henry (1905). the wizard’s gift. The 4,000,000. Doubleday, Page & Company, New York. The Gift of the Magi was retrieved from


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