The title of the story ”The Gift of Magi” is symbolic to the biblical reference to the three wise men or magi, who were present at the birth of baby Jesus so they could give their gifts of Gold, Frankincense and myrrh to the Baby Jesus. Though the gifts being simple in nature their carried a spiritual meaning rather than a material one. The gift of gold represents earthly kingmanship, frankincense represents the symbol of godliness and myrrh represents the symbol of death. We find the symbolic meanings of the gifts given by Jim Young and Della Young to each other at the end as the story progresses.
As the story begins we can clearly see that the couple (Jim and Della Young) live in poverty as O. Henry provides us with enough symbols to make it evident. The symbol of “a letter-box too small to hold a letter”, “an electric bell, but it could not make a sound” make it evidently clear that Jim and Della young were living in poverty. Though they were living in poverty their love was deep for each other. Della Young needs to buy a gift for Jim Young for the Christmas but she has only one dollar and eighty seven cents because of which she is very sad which can be seen in the lines “She stood by the window and looked out with no interest” which is a symbol of looking into their poverty stricken lives with no hope and enthusiasm. But that look on her face quickly changes when she sees herself in the mirror with her gorgeously long hair. Her has been described by O. Henry as “her hair was more beautiful than any queen’s jewels and gifts”, “shining like a falling stream of brown water”. Hair is also the symbol of her feminine beauty and sensuality. Her hair which is so precious to her as so to Jim she decides to cut her and sell it in order to buy the best gift possible for Jim. She reaches the shop and sells her hair for twenty dollars. In order to buy the best gift gift for Jim Young she roams from shop to shop and stumbles upon a gold chain for Jim’s watch which is very plain and simple “as all valuable things are”. “Quiteness and value- Jim and the chain both had quiteness and value”. Here Jim’s watch symbolises prosperity and progress as expensive watches are a symbol of prosperity and progress which just like Jim’s watch is being passed down from generations to generations as a object of value and pride to be worn and own. Della only fear that Jim would not like her with her short hair. But on the contrary Jim sold his gold watch to buy Della a comb embedded with jewels for her long, beautiful and gorgeous hair.
Both of them sold their most prised possession(hair and watch) in order to but the most perfect gift for each other. Which symbolises the sacrifice each character made in order to give the perfect gift possible to give the joy to each other. But as expected from O. Henry it has a surprise ending as both the gifts given byt them to each other becomes useless as Della sold her hair for which Jim got her a comb and Jim sold his watch for which Della got him a gold chain. As relation to the title of the story the material gifts they both gave each deemed to useless but the love they showed for each other was priceless and just what they needed.
Also being the story written with a plot concerning Christmas and the title of the story getting its reference from the Bible. O. Henry rekindles the spirits of Christmas by symbolising the joy of giving. It does not matter if the gift is materially sufficient or not but the joy or value related to the gift is what really matters.
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