The Gift of the Magi

by

O. Henry

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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.

Value

"Gift of the Magi" revolves around a young couple, Della and Jim, who lack a lot in the way of material possessions and external amusements. The beginning of the story focuses on their poverty—the shabby couch, the lack of mirror, the eight-dollar flat, the broken doorbell. Despite this, the narrator adds that Jim always arrives home to be “greatly hugged. Which is all very good.” Their poverty doesn’t seem to affect their cozy home…

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Love

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…

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Sacrifice

At the beginning of the story, Della and Jim have only two prized possessions—Della’s hair and Jim’s watch. In order to overcome their poverty and to give a good Christmas present to the other, each sacrifices the item that they value the most. The sacrifices turn out to have been made rather uselessly, since the gifts they buy can’t be used. One could argue that they ended the story in the same place they…

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Beauty

“Gift of the Magi” constantly contrasts the idea of inner beauty and value with outside appearances. The story begins, for example, with a description of bleak surroundings (“a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray background,” “shabby couch”) while hinting at a warm home life that brightens the exterior (Jim arrives home “to be greatly hugged”). When Della examines the watch chain, she also compares its exterior appearance and actual value to…

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