Summary of the Gift of Magi by O Henry

 This article provides a summary of The Gift of Magi by O Henry. Short stories of O Henry are widely read and appreciated for their sudden twist in the endings. One of the most popular O Henry short stories is “The gift of magi” which is an unconventional celebration of love. Jim and Della, the two main characters of the story move the readers by their mutual love and leave an impact which lasts long after the story has been read. The Gift of magi story has been set during the time of Christmas in the bright city of New York. The whole city was bathing in the light of Christmas but somewhere in a gray corner a pretty lady was counting money and crying.

Della, who had been saving up for a long time for  a great Christmas gift for her husband Jim was moved to tears after discovering that she only  had a dollar and eighty seven cents left with her for buying the present. Her husband was a great man whom she loved dearly and the little money she had managed to save up was barely enough  to  get him a present as wonderful as the person   that he was. Della did not want to spend the Christmas without gifting her husband a fine and rare present so she cooked up a way to procure the money. Della had the most beautiful hair  which flew down to her knees like a brown cascade. She went to a hair shop and sold off   her beautiful hair for twenty dollars which was  just enough to buy an elegant looking platinum chain for Jim’s gold time-piece which was a   prized heirloom that the couple possessed. She  ran home and curled her hair in a desperate attempt to repair the damage that her love for  Jim had done to her hair and beauty.

When Jim reached home and saw Della’s cut hair he was neither angry nor surprised. He just gave an incomprehensible expression which made Della cry out and explain him that she had to sell off her hair to buy him a gift. Jim who had still not come to terms with the fact that Della had sold off her hair took her in his arms and consoled her. He took out his gift for her hoping that his gift would explain his reaction. Upon unwrapping Jim’s gift Della found the prettiest jeweled combs made out of tortoise shell for her hair which Della had craved for knowing that she could never possess it. Now she had those combs but her hair was gone! This made Della break into sobs which only stopped when she remembered about the wonderful gift that she had got for Jim. Upon opening his present, Jim found the platinum chain for his watch and in-spite of Della’s wish that he put on the chain on his time-piece; he could not, as he had sold off that heirloom to get money for Della’s gift. This gift of the magi short story ended there after the gifts were opened.

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  • This gift of the magi summary would be incomplete without discussing the very important message hidden between its lines which is very relevant to today’s materialistic world where true love is fast becoming a rarity. The magi were the three wise men who brought Jesus the very precious and useful gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The magi were wise people and so were the gifts but in the eyes of the author these two stupid lovers were wiser than the Magi. Their Christmas gifts to each other symbolized selfless love for the other which infused in them a generosity which made them give up their most precious treasures. This love and generosity of the couple was the most beautiful and precious gift anyone could have asked for. Their gifts were of no practical use to the couple but they made Jim and Della wiser than the magi as there could not be any gift more perfect and ideal than the gift of love.

About O Henry

  • O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) wrote over 600 stories in his short writing career.
  • He is said to have popularized the “twist ending” and is sometimes called the American DeMaupassant.
  • His short stories are some of the most evergreen and popular amongst students and literature lovers.
  • He owns that strange wit and secret power of blending situations of his stories with extreme ease.
  • I really love reading stories of O.Henry.