Which is the far better gift, the comb or the bag watch? O. Henry"s short story, The Gift the the Magi (1905) uses a memorable ironic twist. We hope our study guide is an especially useful for teachers and students to study irony and appreciate O. Henry"s clever literary devices.

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Read the story: The Gift that the Magi, Character analysis & Summary, Genre & literature Devices, Etymology the "Magi", Quotes, discussion Questions, paired Readings, beneficial Links, and also Notes/Teacher Comments

Della Dillingham - The young woman, married come Jim, whose prized possession was she long, beautiful hair.

Jim Dillingham - The young man, married come Della, whose prized possession was an old pocketwatch through a leather strap.

Plot Summary: Jim and Della Dillingham room a poor, young married pair who don"t have enough money come buy Christmas gifts. Both offer their many prized possessions in order come pay because that a gift for the other at Christmas time.

Della combing her hair


While The Gift of the Magi absolutely falls in the fictional short story genre, it employs what could be called a sub-genre of "dramatic irony."

Dramatic irony is where the leader learns a secret that the key character(s) don"t know about yet. Without the various other knowing, both traded your most beneficial possessions (priceless) because that a gift that can no longer be provided by the other since that person offered up their own possession. We wish we could stop Della from selling her hair, or Jim from marketing his watch, however we can"t. That"s what makes for one engaging storyline that keeps us hooked. We desire to know just how they"ll react once they uncover out.

Literary Devices

Intimacy - O. Henry efficiently employs a literary method of developing intimacy through his reader, addressing us directly so us feel like we room in the very same room with the key characters. Examples: "...already presented to you together Della" "Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 Bat."

Self-deprecating - O. Henry provides fun the himself and also his composing "Oh, and also the following two hours tripped through on rose wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She to be ransacking the stores because that Jim"s present."

Similes - to compare Della"s hair, "rippling and also shining favor a cascade that brown waters" and also describing herself after the haircut: " look like a Coney Island chorus girl." relenten Jim standing still, "as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail."

Biblical References

The Magi King Solomon Queen that Sheba

Primary Themes

Sacrifice Love

Comparative Themes

Yearning because that what friend can"t have actually vs. Receiving what you can"t usage Material joy vs. Spirituality or emotionally happiness

The three Kings

Etymology the "Magi"

Magi is Latin, meaning skilled magicians, astrologers. Singular is "magus" i beg your pardon is the Persian source from Indo-Iranian "magh" which way powerful and rich, expressing ability. The Latins dubbed them wise men, the Persians dubbed them Magi. Also indigenous the Greek "magos" (5th century BCE) which refers to the Persian priestly and learned course as shown in The scriptures in The Gospel of Matthew

According to Ludolph of saxony (died 1378): "The three pagan kings were called Magi not because they were magicians but since of the great science that astrology which was theirs. Those whom the Hebrews referred to as scribes and also the Greeks, philosophers, and the Latins, way men, the Persians referred to as Magi. And the reason that castle were dubbed kings is that in those job it to be the tradition for the philosophers and also wise males to be rulers."

Pocketwatch, 1859


Explain what the following estimates mean and how lock relate come the story:

"One dollar and also eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it remained in pennies."

"Whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young come home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced come you as Della."

"Had King Solomon been the janitor, v all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled the end his watch eveyr time he passed, just to watch him pluck in ~ his beard indigenous envy."

"So now Della"s beautiful hair fell about her, rippling and shining favor a cascade of brown waters. It reached listed below her knee and also made itself nearly a garment because that her."

""I buy hair," said Madame. "Taker yer hat off and let"s have a sight at the look at of it.""

"As soon as she witnessed it she knew that it have to be Jim"s. The was like him. Quietness and also value--the description used to both."

"Don"t you like me just as well, anyhow? I"m me without my hair, ain"t I?"

"Eight dollars a mainly or a million a year—what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would offer you the wrong answer."

"The dull precious steel seemed come flash through a reflection of she bright and also ardent spirit."

"Let"s placed our Christmas gift away and keep "em a while. They"re as well nice come use just at present."

" designed the arts of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, perhaps bearing the privilege the exchange in situation of duplication."

"But in a critical word come the way of this days let that be said that of all who give gifts these 2 were the wisest."

Tortoise-shell comb

Discussion Questions

1. The opened line, "One dollar and also eight-seven cents" (in 1905) is identical to just how much in today"s dollars? Here"s an Inflation calculator Why is this amount both important and unimportant in the story?

2. Specify irony and how O. Henry"s employs that in the story.

3. Comment on the themes the sacrifice and love in the story.

4. Perform Della"s and also Jim"s reactions to their predicament giving up their many valued possesions for gifts that are currently useless surprised you? fairly than be upset at eachother or sad, Jim argues they put the gift away for awhile and also says, "And currently suppose you placed the chops on." just how do material possessions compare to your true love for one another?

5. Della desire the hair combs there is no the least hope that possession, and also now the they were hers, she couldn"t use them. Think the a situation in your very own life that could be characterized as ironic.

6. Why did O. Henry select this simile? "Jim quit inside the door, together immovable as a setter at the scent of quail."

7. Define O. Henry"s use of Biblical recommendations (the magi, King Solomon, Queen Sheba) and also his usage of symbolism the Ella and Jim space the magi. Link to The divine Bible, book of Matthew

8. To compare the occasions of "The Adoration that the Magi" to O. Henry"s story. Recommended reading: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow"s poem, The three Kings, particularly noting his lines: "They thought the Wise males were guys insane" and, ~ the majesties presented their valuable gifts: "And the mommy wondered and also bowed her head, and sat as still as a statue that stone; she heart to be troubled however comforted..."

9. Describe the definition of "wise" in the story. What go "word come the wise" average (still a commonly used idiom)?

10. What"s the definition of a "meaningful gift"? Why perform you think this story is an especially touching at Christmas?

11. Compare the elements of irony in Federigo"s Falcon v The Gift the the Magi. Identify literary tools used through each author to connect his leader in the protagonists" plight.

12. Check out O. Henry"s story, The last Leaf, to compare its themes of sacrifice and irony v The Gift that the Magi.

Essay prompt #1: describe your very own philosophy of gift offering (and receiving) and what renders for the most meaningful gifts. Relate her experiences to the story.

Essay note #2: Think of an event which you consider ironic in your own life (or called a movie or story wherein irony is main to the plot). Why is irony so appealing to readers/viewers? discuss how comes to state or addressing the conundrum is important.

See more: What Are The Two Families In Romeo And Juliet ? Characters In Romeo And Juliet

Federigo"s Falcon

Compare The Gift the the Magi to various other stories the the sub-genre "dramatic irony":

Federigo"s Falcon The Last sheet Caline The Ambitious Guest (this one is scary irony)

When comparing supplies of dramatic irony, talk about plot, themes, the role of irony in engaging the reader, and also contrasts that make every story unique.

Teachers: difficulty students to determine other story they"ve review which save dramatic irony, maybe assign castle to create their own, come more totally appreciate the richness and appeal of irony in storytelling. It"s both a pleasure for the audience and also the writer!

O. Henry

Biography and Works by O. Henry

Is It in reality Ironic? 3 TED-Ed class on irony

Gift that the Magi Q & A

ESL Lesson arrangement for Gift that the Magi

Storyboard that Plot Diagram because that The Gift of the Magi

Etymology of "Magi"

Complete perform of significant and Minor personalities in the Bible

The divine Bible, publication of Matthew

Inflation calculator: 1905 dollars in 2017

20 an excellent American short Stories

Short stories for High School

Short stories for center School

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