The True Magi - An Analysis of 'The Gift of the Magi'

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“Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi”- Discuss with close reference to the story ‘The Gift of the Magi’. In the Bible, the wise men of the East, called Magi or three kings of the Orient-followed a guiding star to pay homage to the newborn Christ, bringing with them gold, frankincense and myrrh. The tradition of giving and receiving gifts is inextricably connected with the gifts of the Magi. The author begins with a description of their poverty in order to highlight the sacrifice that the Dillingham Youngs make for one another. They had to survive on a very modest income of twenty dollars a week, reduced from a previous income of thirty dollars. At the very beginning O’Henry introduces us to a despondent Della, the young wife of James Dillingham Young because she wanted to buy a gift for her husband at Christmas but lacked the means. The next day was Christmas and Della had been able to save only a dollar and eightyseven cents from her housekeeping. She realized that she could not buy a gift worthy of him with that paltry sum. While pondering over the gloomy state of things Della suddenly had a brilliant idea. She thought of selling her only precious possession- her luxurious hair to fetch her money for Jim’s gift. This flash of inspiration made her eyes sparkle when she stood before the mirror to survey her hair. It fell about her “rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters.” So Della sold her beautiful hair to a hairdresser, Mrs. Sofronie, for twenty dollars and bought a platinum fob chain for Jim. It was simple and chaste in design just like “her Jim”. Jim, on the other hand, had inherited his gold pocket watch from his father which had belonged to his grandfather earlier. He sold his family heirloom to buy a set of beautiful tortoise shell combs for Della- a set she had longed for.

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