The Gift of the Magi
by O. Henry
The Gift of the Magi Theme of Wealth
In many ways, "Gift of the Magi" is a story about what it means for something to be valuable. Does something's value lie in how much money it is worth? Or are other things more valuable than money? The main characters are very poor – this is repeatedly emphasized – and yet the story suggests that their love for each other makes them very rich. It is that love, which motivates them to give up the only things of monetary (or personal) value they have to buy presents for each other. Perhaps their poverty is what enables them to appreciate what really matters.
Questions About Wealth
- What is it that makes Jim and Della's two prize possessions valuable? In what ways are they valuable?
- What are the different ways of understanding "value" in the story? Where do you see them in the text?
- After their gift exchange, are Della and Jim richer, poorer, or just about where they were at the beginning? From what perspectives can you answer that question?
- Is it a bad thing that Della and Jim are poor? What does the story suggest?
Chew on This
Jim and Della's two prize possessions are valuable because they are the only things they have that are worth a significant amount of money.
Madame Sofronie understands the value of an object as the amount of money it will fetch.