How Character Interaction Reinforces O. Henry’s Theme of Love in “The Gift of the Magi”

People would do a lot for love, especially the two main characters of “The Gift of the Magi.” “The Gift of the Magi” is a short story by O’Henry. Della and Jim are a married couple, and they are poor. It’s Christmas time, and neither of them have enough money for gifts, so they sell the things most precious to them. However, their gifts to each other are for these special things, leaving both of their gifts useless. Yet they aren’t discouraged, because they both know the gifts they received were bought out of love. The theme of “The Gift of the Magi” is that love is more valuable than any material possession. Della and Jim gave numerous examples of the theme throughout the story.

In the beginning of the story, this theme is shown when the narrator states Della and Jim’s most prized possessions. O’Henry writes, “The James Dillingham Youngs were very proud of two things which they owned. One thing was Jim’s gold watch. […] The other thing was Della’s hair” (2). Jim had sold his watch to buy combs for Della’s hair, but Della sold her hair to buy a chain for Jim’s watch. They both wanted to give each other a gift that was related to their most precious thing, and at the same time, they both gave up their own most prized possession. Neither gift was helpful because their possessions were sold, but it served as a symbol of their love for each other.

This theme is demonstrated in this story in numerous ways, especially when Jim came home to see Della near the end of the story. O’Henry writes, “Nothing like a haircut could make me love you any less. But if you’ll open that, you may know what I felt when I came in” (5). In this quote, Jim explains that he doesn’t mind that Della’s hair is no longer attractive as a result of selling her hair. He still loves her no matter what, demonstrating Jim and Della’s strong love for each other. This quote also shows that they care about the gifts because they show their love for each other and they are meaningful, not because of the gifts themselves.

The theme is shown again when Della is upset because she does not have enough money to buy Jim a gift, especially one suitable for someone she loves and cares about so much. O’Henry writes, “Only $ 1.87 to buy a gift for Jim. Her Jim. She had had many happy hours planning something nice for him. Something nearly good enough. Something almost worth the honor of belonging to Jim” (2). This quote shows the theme because it expresses Della’s belief that she would be unable to buy anything “worth the honor of belonging to Jim,” demonstrating her admiration for him. This shows the theme because this quote can be used to express how much Della loves Jim, and therefore how her love is more valuable than any item she could get for him.

“The Gift of the Magi” has the theme that love is more valuable than any material possession. First, Della and Jim sold their most prized possessions away to buy each other gifts. Second, Jim explained that he would love Della no matter what. Third, Della felt like no gift she bought (especially with how little money she had) would be worthy of Jim because she thought so highly of him and loved him so much. With those reasons, this shows that the theme of love being more valuable than possessions is shown between Della and Jim in O’Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.”

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