Are Jim and Della from “The Gift of the Magi” richer before or after their gift exchange?

Belonging to the genre of dramatic irony, the short story “The Gift of the Magi” by O’Henry narrates the tale of Della and Jim, who have become richer in affection after their gift exchange. The protagonists choose to give up their most valuable belongings with the intentions to give the perfect gifts to each other, which have been rendered useless. However, Della and Jim gain something more valuable in their relationship than either of their possessions.

When she wants to make more money to buy a nice gift for her husband, Della asks, “‘Will you buy my hair?’” (3). Because Della is willing to give up her most precious possession, the immense love she feels for her husband is depicted. Furthermore, Della’s feelings are mutual as Jim ends up selling his cherished watch to buy combs for Della.

At first glance, the exchange seems to be inconsequential since the gifts are now unusable, but a shift in the conflict is noted when “Of all who give gifts, these two were the most wise. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the most wise” (4). By sacrificing their most precious belongings, Jim and Della prove to each other that they have deep affection for one another, which is why they are referred to as the magi. There is no materialistic gift that would have such great meaning as the gifts of Della and Jim; therefore, they are much richer than they were before the gift exchange.

-Ayati M.

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