Primary Genre(s): Fiction, Classic, Christmas, Parable
Published: 10 December 1905 (newspaper); 10 April 1906 (book)
Page count: varies depending on edition; ranges from 7 to 48.
My Format: Audiobook via Hoopla; free online
Would I recommend it: Absolutely
Commission Link: Buy The Gift of the Magi
My rating: ★★★★★
In a shabby New York flat, Della sobs as she counts the few coins she has saved to buy a Christmas present for her husband, Jim. A gift worthy of her devotion will require a great sacrifice: selling her long, beautiful hair. Jim, meanwhile, has made a sacrifice for Della that is no less difficult. As they exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, the discovery of what each has done fills them with despair, until they realize that the true gifts of Christmas can be found more readily in their humble apartment than in any fine store. O. Henry paints a masterly portrait of unfaltering love, a haven from the harsh world outside.
I enjoy reading and reviewing short stories from time to time and I decided yesterday that I wanted to read some work by O. Henry because I honestly do not believe I have ever read one of his stories before. As I was looking for books on Overdrive and Hoopla I noticed The Gift of the Magi. Like most people, I have heard this story (or versions of it) throughout my life, but I am embarrassed to say I had no clue it was written by O. Henry and I have never actually read the story for myself. Since it is Christmas Eve today, I just had to read it. There are several online copies available to read for free. Here are my pros and cons for The Gift of the Magi:
- This story is just beautiful. I think its simplicity is what makes it so powerful.
- It is a nice parable and it reminds us to be selfless instead of selfish.
- Even though I know the story, the twist is still effective.
- I love the comparison to the Magi – the three wise men that brought gifts to the baby Jesus. The Magi brought gold, frankincense and myrrh… the richest gifts they had to give.
- I appreciated the emphasis on the love Della and Jim had for each other, even before the grand sacrifice each ultimately made. Despite their unfortunate circumstances, they still loved one another. That is a great message.
I remember hearing this story (or a version of it) as a young child and being amazed at what each person did for the other one. But I was also dismayed because the gifts were no longer useful because of what each person gave up themselves. I can remember thinking that, while the intention was good, it was kind of a wasted effort for both of them. That is a valid thought and on the surface it is true. However, as an adult, the story has much more meaning to me. The story isn’t about the usefulness of the gifts, but – and I know this is cliché – the thought behind the gift that is important! Even deeper, it is the love they have for one another and the desire to make the other happy that is the true gift and much, much better than anything they could wrap in a box.
The story is about selflessness, kindness, the desire to do for others, love, and sacrifice. It is a good message for all of us to remember during this holiday season… and always.
Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. 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. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
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(Image above is the front cover art for the book The Gift of the Magi written by O. Henry. The book cover art copyright is believed to belong to the publisher or the cover artist, P. J. Lynch. Image from Wikipedia article for The Gift of the Magi.)