Gift of the Magi Summary - A short story BY O. Henry


The Gift of the Magi Summary
Credit: Wikipedia

The Gift of the Magi Summary

The Gift of the Magi is a short story by O Henry about a couple's selfless love for each other. 

It was first published in 1905 in the anthology named ‘The Four Million’, along with the other 24 stories penned by him, for instance, 'The Skylight Room', 'The Cop and the Anthem, and 'After Twenty Years'.

Through 'The Gift of the Magi', O. Henry tells a touching tale about the love shared by a husband and a wife despite their hardships, and the extent to which they go to make each other feel loved and cherished. The story is about Della and her husband James Dillingham Young. 

The story opens on Christmas eve, where Della is thinking of buying a Christmas gift for her husband. Della has only 1 dollar and 87 cents & with only one day left for her to come up with a present idea and buy something special for John, she struggles to decide what to give her husband. Frustrated and helpless, she cries. 

After much thought, she decides to sell her long hair to a lady named Madame Sofronie, who is a hairdresser and gets $20 as payment for her good quality hair. 

With the money, Della buys a gold fob chain for John’s gold pocket watch, his most precious possession. She is happy with her choice and is sure that it is indeed the perfect gift, made only for John. 

Just like his wife, John puts a lot of thought into deciding what to buy for Della. John loves his wife's long hair and ultimately sells his pocket watch to buy some combs for Della. The same combs she had admired in a shop some time back but hadn't bought. 

Della and her husband have little money but still, they find ways to buy Christmas gifts for each other. A selfless act that only a heart full of love is capable of doing!! 

Later that night, Della gives John his Christmas gift - the fob chain - and confesses that she sold her hair to buy him his present. John also hands over the combs, the ones he bought by selling his pocket watch. 

Both Della and John end up with useless gifts, but the feelings behind their gestures speak volumes. Both of them sold their most precious things to buy a gift for the other, but in the end, they lost nothing. Their love for each other still persisted. And BEING loved is way way better than millions and millions of money, is n’t it?

Gift of the Magi - Tone & Narrator

The tone of the narrator is wise but at some point comes across as preachy. The narrator's commentary is continuous and though the storyteller is not a character in the short story, we can't classify the person as a spectator either. The narrator has a lot to say and keeps on hopping in and out of the main storyline to give us a more profound experience of the story telling. 

What is the Genre of the Gift of the Magi? 

It is a short story and since it uses a situation to convey a moral or spiritual lesson, it is the perfect example of a parable. The story is all about what it means to give a gift and brings forth different points that make state how the feelings expressed through the gift are more important than the gift itself. The love behind the gesture is all that matters.