The Gift of the Magi

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Themes and Colors
Value Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Beauty Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Gift of the Magi, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Love Theme Icon

Della’s main concern is that the money she’s saved by pinching pennies isn’t enough to buy Jim a worthy Christmas present. For her, the main obstacle that poverty poses to her happiness is its limitation of her expression of love.

After the twist ending, Jim sits back on the couch and smiles, even after it’s revealed that both their gifts are now useless. Because while the gift themselves have no purpose, the giving of the gifts means everything: they now know that each one of them would sacrifice their most prized possessions for the other. Their love triumphs over material wealth and possessions. They gave to each other not objects, but love.

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Love Quotes in The Gift of the Magi

Below you will find the important quotes in The Gift of the Magi related to the theme of Love.
The Gift of the Magi Quotes

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Related Characters: Della, Jim
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

As a young couple struggling to make ends meet, Della and Jim rely on small points of pride—such as Della's hair and Jim's gold watch—to maintain their identity in the face of financial hardships. In this quote, the narrator notes that when Jim's salary was $30 a week, the couple did not feel the need to use the stately "Dillingham" in their shared married name; however, since his pay was reduced by one-third, they have begun considering how to sneak the extra, more aristocratic-sounding name back in little by little to regain some sense of higher-class identity and pride. But regardless of their names outside the home, or what is on their mailbox, inside the flat they are always "Della" and "Jim," a hallmark of the fact that their love for each other is not dependent on any level of money or worldly status. No matter how much or how little Jim makes, he will always be welcomed home warmly by Della, who unconditionally loves her husband despite their financial struggles. 

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Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

Related Characters: Jim
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Despite pinching pennies for months, Della is only able to save $1.87 with which to purchase a Christmas present for her husband Jim. As the couple lives on a slim salary, Della had been hoping to save enough money to buy Jim a nice present for the holiday. When she realizes that this is all she has to buy a gift, she cries for some time in despair and disappointment. Della unconditionally loves Jim, and wants to express this love in the form of a lavish present, the likes of which they can only afford to spend money on for special occasions. 

In this quote, Della hopes to purchase Jim something "fine and rare and sterling," a gift that is "worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim." To Della, her husband Jim himself is "fine and rare and sterling," a man whose worth is singular and enduring, regardless of trends or the times. Throughout the story, Della and Jim equate their love to the ability to buy a present worthy of the other person. Jim eventually buys Della beautiful, expensive combs that he believes are worthy of her love and beauty. However, it is through their willingness to sacrifice the worldly possessions that they personally cherish—Jim's watch, and Della's hair—that they ultimately express their enduring admiration and love. 

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

Related Characters: Della (speaker), Della, Jim
Related Symbols: Della’s hair, Jim’s gold watch
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

After buying the fob chain for Jim, Della goes home to prepare dinner and curl her newly shortened hair. When it nears the time that Jim returns from work each night, she waits impatiently by the door, eager to give him her present. However, when she begins to hear him ascend the staircase, she is struck with the fear that Jim will dislike the way she looks with the shorter hairstyle. 

Though Della's hair is technically her possession, both she and Jim hold pride in its singularity and its beauty. Similarly, Della also takes pride in Jim's watch even though it technically belongs to him, since it was passed down from his grandfather, to his father, and finally to Jim. After selling her hair, Della is suddenly worried that Jim will no longer find her beautiful without her luxurious, knee-length hair. Since it is an important aspect, but not a core part of her identity, Della was able to easily part with her hair in order to buy Jim a Christmas present. However, she is still overcome with the realization that she is not sure how much of Jim's attraction and love for her is predicated on the beauty and rarity of her locks. After sacrificing her hair, which takes years and years to grow, Della prays that she will not lose Jim's love along with it. 

And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Related Characters: Della, Jim
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

After Della tells him she has cut and sold her hair in order to buy him a Christmas present, Jim admits that he sold his watch in order to buy Della the hair combs she has been admiring for months. Thus, Della sold her hair to buy Jim a chain for a watch he no longer has, and Jim sold his watch to buy Della combs for hair she no longer possesses. 

At the end of the story, and in this quote, the narrator invokes the Biblical story of the Three Wise Men, the "magi" who first gave the baby Jesus gifts in his manger, thus traditionally inventing the ritual of gift giving around Christmas. The narrator notes that though Della and Jim might seem "foolish" for their miscommunication in the gift exchange, they are in fact like magi themselves. The wisdom to be willing to sacrifice their greatest possessions in order to bring happiness to the person they love makes them the "wisest," and therefore just as sacred as the original magi.