Study Guide

Jim in The Gift of the Magi

By O. Henry


Jim's job is not so great. He's the only breadwinner for the Dillingham Young family (that is, him and Della), and it seems he works long hours, but his salary is low. And it recently went from bad to worse: whereas he used to make $30 a week he's now down to just $20. He and Della are struggling just to pay the expenses of their small flat. So if Jim happens to seem a little tired, serious, overworked, and perhaps a tad underweight, there's a good reason for it.

He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves. (22)

The one thing that keeps Jim going is his love for Della. She's his Della (33).We don't get half as much exposure to his feelings as we do for Della's, but all evidence points to him being just as devoted to her as she is to him. Just like Della, Jim gives up his most precious possession to find a perfect gift for the person he loves. And it's not just because of her looks, even though she worries about them:

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less." (35)

Why does Jim love Della so much? Probably in part because she loves him so much.

You may have noticed that Della is also a little jumpy. Jim's definitely the more levelheaded one in the relationship. While she reacts to his present with shrieks and wails, he just reacts to hers by rolling onto the couch and smiling (43).