Get here the summary of the short story The Gift of the Magi written by O. Henry as well as questions, answers (very short, short, long), notes, textbook solutions, extras, pdf. The story is part of Assam Higher Secondary Education Council’s (AHSEC) syllabus for Class 12 Alternative English.
Summary: The Gift of the Magi is a short story about a young married couple named Tim and Della Dillingham. The couple is short of cash. They have two items that they regard as treasures. Tim wears a gold watch that was handed down to him by his father and grandfather. Della has long, lustrous hair that reaches almost to her knees.
In the case of Jim, his precious watch might even have made king Solomon envious, while Della’s long and beautiful hair might have made the Queen of Sheba jealous. Della discovers herself with a meagre one dollar and eighty-seven cents on Christmas Eve, which she intends to spend on a present for Jim. She wants to get Jim a chain for his gold watch, but none of them is within her budget. Della rushes home, pulling down her lovely long hair and admiring it in the mirror.
She then gets an idea and cuts off her hair to sell for $20, just enough to purchase the platinum chain for the gold watch. When Jim returns, Della admits that she sold her hair to pay for his present. Jim pulls a package from his overcoat pocket and hands it to Della. Della discovers a pair of expensive decorative hair combs that she had long admired inside the packet. She gives Jim his Christmas gift, a watch chain, while hiding her tears. Jim shrugs, slumps onto the sofa, and places his hands behind his head. He admits to Della that he sold his watch to purchase her combs.
The Gift of Magi concludes by comparing Jim and Della’s gifts to the gifts given to the Baby Jesus by the Magi in the biblical story of Christmas. According to the narrator, Jim and Della’s gifts are far wiser than the Magi’s (the three wise men that offered baby Jesus gifts) because they are gifts of love and self-sacrifice. They understand the value of self-giving love. The story teaches the lesson of what constitutes the true spirit of Christmas gift giving.
Very short answer type questions
1. Who were the ‘Magi’?
Answer: The Magi were the wise men who travelled from the East to Jerusalem, assisted by a star, to see the newborn Jesus, God’s son.
2. How much Della was able to save?
Answer: Della has only managed to save one dollar and eighty-seven cents.
3. Who is ‘Jim’?
Answer: Della’s husband’s name is Jim.
4. What is Jim’s full name?
Answer: Mr James Dillingham Young is Jim’s full name.
5. Whose name does the card bear?
Answer: Mr James Dillingham Young’s name appears on the card.
6. How much was the income of the possessor of the card earlier?
Answer: Previously, the card holder’s weekly income was $30.
7. How much is his income now?
Answer: His weekly income is now $20.
8. Who is ‘Dell’?
Answer: ‘Dell’ is the wife of James Dillingham Young.
9. How much does it cost for the rent?
Answer: The apartment costs $8 per week to rent.
10. Who is the ‘mistress of the home’?
Answer: The mistress of the house is ‘Della.’
Short answer type questions – I
1. Why was Della saving the money?
Answer: Della was saving up for a fine, rare, and sterling Christmas present for Jim.
2. Why did Della count her money three times?
Answer: Della counted her money three times to ensure that she could save only one dollar and eighty-seven cents for a Christmas gift for her husband.
3. What did Della do after she realised, she had very less money with her?
Answer: Della flopped down on the shabby little couch and howled when she realised she had very little money with her to buy a gift for Jim. She was depressed and sad.
4. What was the condition of the card which bore its owner’s name?
Answer: The card with the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young” on it was in poor condition. It has also been subjected to the ravages of time, as the letters ‘Dillingham’ appear blurred as if contracted to a modest and unassuming “D.”
5. Where did Della look at her reflection?
Answer: Della examined her reflection in the pier-glass between the room’s windows.
6. What would the Queen of Sheba be jealous of?
Answer: The Queen of Sheba would be envious of Della’s long, lustrous golden hair, as Della had long, lustrous golden hair.
7. Where did Della run to after looking at her reflection in the pier-glass?
Answer: Della dashed down the street after seeing her reflection in the pier-glass in order to meet Madame Saffronie and sell her long hair.
8. How much money did Madame offer Della for her hair?
Answer: Madame Saffronie offered Della $20 for her hair.
9. What was the present that Della chose for Jim?
Answer: For Jim, Della had chosen a simple and chaste platinum chain.
10. How did she look after the ‘repair’ of her hair?
Answer: Della looked like a truant schoolboy after her hair was repaired.
Short answer type questions – II
1. How did Della manage to save one dollar and seventy-seven cents?
Answer: Della was able to save one dollar and 87 cents in order to purchase a Christmas present for Jim. She’d saved a few dollars by haggling with the grocer, the vegetable man, and the butcher until their cheeks burned with the silent imputation of stinginess.
2. What drives the author to conclude that “life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating”?
Answer: Della wanted to give Jim the most precious gift possible, but she could only save one dollar and eighty-seven cents for a purchase on Christmas Eve. She was depressed about herself and her financial situation. She couldn’t help but howl on the shabby little couch. Della had worked hard to save money, but it would not satisfy her desire, so she was disappointed. It assisted the author in realising that life is made up of sobbing, sniffles, and smiles, with the sniffles taking precedence.
3. Describe Della’s apartment.
Answer: Della’s apartment was fully furnished and cost $8 per week. There was a mail box in the entrance hall that would not accept letters and an electric button that would not ring. A card with the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young” on it was also present. The letter on the card was hazy. There was a pier-glass between the room’s windows in the flat.
4. Why did everything look grey to Della that morning?
Answer: Della was disappointed when she realised she only had one dollar and eighty-seven cents to buy Jim a Christmas present. She was depressed about herself and her financial situation. Della’s world was clouded with gloomy melancholy that morning, so everything appeared grey to her. She was dissatisfied because she couldn’t find a suitable gift for her husband.
5. What had Della been planning all along?
Answer: Della had planned to get Jim a nice Christmas present. She intended to purchase something nice, fine, rare, and sterling silver. Something that comes close to being worthy of the honour of being owned by her husband, Jim.
6. What idea came to Della’s mind as she stood looking at her reflection in the pier-glass?
Answer: While gazing at her reflection in the pier-glass. She devised the plan of trading the very treasure. She spent her money, i.e. her long and beautiful hair, to get Jim a wonderful Christmas present.
7. What were the two possessions of the James Dillingham Young of which they both were very proud?
Answer: James Dillingham Young and his wife were both very proud of their possessions. Jim’s prized possession was his gold watch, a family heirloom, while Della had lustrous long beautiful hair.
8. What did Jim possess that would make King Solomon envious?
Answer: Jim’s golden watch would make King Solomon envious.
9. Why do you think, Della had the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes’ even as she ran out of the door and into the street?
Answer: Della had the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes after figuring out how to pay for Jim’s Christmas present.
10. What did Della ask Madame Sofronie and what was her answer?
Answer: Della inquired if Madame Safronie was interested in purchasing her hair. Madame Sofronie stated that she would purchase hair and then asked her to remove her hat in order to examine it.
11. Did Della bargain with Madame about the price for her hair? What did she say to her, then?
Answer: No, Della did not negotiate prices with Madame Sofronie over the price of her hair. She asked her to give her $20 as soon as possible.
12. Why was the gift chosen by Della for Jim ‘like him’?
Answer: Della’s gift for Jim was like him because she chose it for him to use with his most prized possession, a gold watch. It also reflected her feelings for Jim. The gift, like Jim, was simple, valuable, and quite appealing.
13. What did Della do once she got home to repair her appearance?
Answer: Della surrendered a little to prudence and logic after returning home. She repaired the damage to her hair with a curling iron. She tried for forty minutes to fix her hair. She appeared to be a school truant.
14. What did Della think Jim would say to her about the way she looked now?
Answer: Della was afraid Jim would kill her. If he didn’t kill her, he’d give her a second look. In that case, Jim would tell her she resembled a Coney Island Chorus girl.
15. What habit did Della have and what did she whisper about when she heard Jim’s steps on the stairs?
Answer: Della had a habit of saying small silent prayers about the most insignificant of everyday occurrences. When he heard Jim’s steps, she wisphered a prayer that Jim still should think she was pretty.
16. How old was Jim and how did he look?
Answer: Jim was twenty-two years old. Jim appeared thin and solemn.
17. How did Jim behave when he stepped inside the room?
Answer: When Jim entered the room, he came to a halt, his gaze fixed on Della with an expression she couldn’t read. It wasn’t rage, surprise, or disapproval. He had a strange expression on his face and simply stared at her.
18. What did Della think was the reason for Jim’s odd behaviour?
Answer: Della assumed Jim’s strange behaviour was due to the cutting of her hair.
19. How did Della try to coax Jim into thinking that she was still pretty?
Answer: Della informed Jim that she had cut her hair in order to give him a Christmas present. Her hair would also regrow. She tried to persuade him that her hair grows quickly. To persuade Jim, she asked if he didn’t like her. Even though she had cut her hair, she was still the same Della, whose love for Jim could never be measured.
20. What is Jim’s answer to Della regarding her looks without her long hair?
Answer: Nothing in the world, Jim replied, could change her mind about his girl. However, if Della unwrapped the gift he had purchased for her as a Christmas present, she would understand why his behaviour seemed strange at first.
21. What lay in the package that Jim had brought for Della?
Answer: Jim had included a pair of expensive, beautiful combs made of pure tortoise shell with jewelled rims in the package he had brought for Della.
Long answer type questions – I
1. How did the next two hours pass by for Della?
Answer: Her next two hours flew by on rose wings as she searched for gifts for her spouse after she had obtained the necessary funds for Jim’s Christmas present. He was searching through the stores one by one for Jim’s present, but she couldn’t find anything suitable. She eventually discovered a platinum fob chain with a simple and chaste design. She paid $21 for the chain and received 87 cents in exchange.
2. Why did Jim’s expression terrify Della?
Answer: Jim returned home with a strange expression on his face, and fixedly looked at Della. She couldn’t tell what was going on in his eyes. Jim’s expression was anything but angry, surprised, or horrified. It also lacked any of the sentiments she had anticipated because he was staring at her. Della felt terrified.
3. Why did Della quickly change from being joyous to crying hysterically?
Answer: Jim gave Della a set of pure tortoise shell combs with jewelled rims for Christmas. Della had long desired and adored the combs in the Broadway window. These combs were quite pricey, as she was well aware. Despite the fact that she had no chance of ever possessing them, her heart yearned for them. As a result, when Jim handed it to her, she burst out laughing. But then she started crying because the combs were hers, but the hair for which they were intended was no longer hers because she had cut her hair off to bring Jim a Christmas gift. Della’s hair had fallen out, but she welcomed Jim’s gift with joy, hugging and smiling from the bottom of her heart.
4. Why does O’Henry allude to the ‘two foolish children’ as the Magi?
Answer: Because Jim and Della both sacrificed their most prized possession to buy something to go with the other’s most prized gift, O’Henry refers to the two foolish children as ‘the Magi.’ They act rashly. The value of a gift, according to the author, is determined not by its monetary value but by the giver’s intent, sacrifice, and generosity. They resemble the Magi, three wise men from Christian mythology who brought beautiful gifts to Christ at his birth. Jim and Dell gave love and sacrifice in equal measure. It also considers what makes Christmas gift-giving so special.
5. Bring out the meaning inherent in this sentence: ‘She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard.’
Answer: On Christmas Eve, Della Dillingham wanted to give her husband Jim the most valuable present she could think of. She may, however, only be able to save $1.87. With such a small sum, she couldn’t deliver the desired gift. She felt sorry for herself and her financial predicament as a result of this. She went to the window and looked out. As she stared out the window, her demeanour and emotions mirrored her surroundings. Everything seemed to be grey to her. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cat, a fence, or your backyard. Everything was a dull shade of grey with no colour. There was no colour, no variety, and no hope of improving her financial situation. Della’s sadness and despondency are reflected in the colour grey.
Long answer type questions – II
1. O’ Henry calls Della and Jim ‘two foolish children’. Do you think they are really foolish? Why or why not?
Answer: Jim and Della didn’t have much money to spend on each other for Christmas gifts. They wanted to give each other what they thought were the most valuable gifts they could find. As a result, they had to part with their most valuable possession. They had exchanged priceless items that each of them possessed and for which the gifts were intended. Della had always wanted a set of tortoise shell combs, but she had sold her long hair to buy a platinum fob chain for Jim’s watch. Jim couldn’t use Della’s gift because he had sold his watch to buy Della’s exquisite combs. They were happy, however, because they realised how much they loved each other. They were referred to as “two foolish children” and “The Magi” by O’Henry. Even though they sacrificed their most prized possession without thinking about the consequences, Jim and Della were not foolish. Their presents were far too lovely to be used in the present. Despite this, it brought to mind the true spirit of Christmas gift-giving. They were wise, like the Magi, because they gave gifts of love and sacrifice.
2. Is the title of the story “The Gift of The Magi’ appropriate? Justify.
Answer: “The Gift of the Magi” is a story about Jim and Della, a young couple. They are unable to buy each other Christmas gifts due to a lack of funds. They wanted to give each other what they considered to be the most valuable gifts they could find. Each character in the novel expresses their love for one another by giving up their most valuable possession. Della’s most valuable asset was her long, lustrous hair, which was enough to make Queen Sheba envious. Jim’s most valuable possession was a family heirloom, a magnificent gold watch. Ironically, both of them had traded—of the very things the gifts were intended to be used for. They couldn’t use their gifts because they were too nice. Jim and Della’s gifts were compared to the gifts given to the baby Jesus by the Magi at his birth. Jim and Della’s gifts, according to the narrator, are far wiser than the Magi’s gifts because they are gifts of self-sacrifice and love. The title “Gift of the Magi” is significant because it concludes with a moral lesson on what it means to give a true Christmas gift. The title is apt because it deals with the concept of priceless gifts and wisdom, which the title alludes to.
3. What moral lessons are stressed upon in ‘The Gift of The Magi’?
Answer: The story ‘The Gift of the Magi’ addresses the moral lesson of what defines the true spirit of Christmas gift giving. Jim and Della were both poor, so they had to sell their most valuable possessions to buy each other Christmas gifts. Della relinquished her long, lustrous hair, which would have made the Queen of Sheba envious, and Jim relinquished his family heirloom, a golden watch. Della received a set of tortoise shell combs from Jim, which she had always wanted but couldn’t use because they were too nice. She used the proceeds from the sale of her long hair to purchase a platinum fob chain for Jim’s watch. Della’s present for Jim was also far too lovely to be used. Jim and Della both gave up their most prized possession in order to purchase something to match the other’s prized possession. This is where the true spirit of Christmas gift-giving can be found.
4. Bring out the comic irony in the story, ‘The Gift of The Magi’.
Answer: In “The Gift of the Magi,” comic irony is employed to emphasise the moral of the story which is the true spirit of Christmas gift giving. Jim and Della are a young couple who come from a poor family. To buy Christmas presents for each other, they must sell their most valuable possessions. Della frightens the Queen of Sheba with her long, lustrous hair. Jim’s valuable watch is a family heirloom that may make King Solomon envious. The irony lies in the fact that they are both trading off their own possessions, which are the gifts’ intended recipients. When Jim brings her a set of tortoise shell combs, Della temporarily forgets that her hair isn’t long enough to wear in her very short hair. She sold her long hair to buy a platinum fob chain for Jim’s watch. Even Della’s gift was too nice for Jim to refuse because he had sold his gold watch to buy a gift for Della. Despite the fact that Jim and Della were given gifts that were too nice to use, they were not disappointed. The comic irony stems from the fact that both Jim and Della gave up their most prized possession in order to buy something to use with the other’s most prized possession.
5. Explain with reference to the context:
a. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with smiles predominating?
Answer: The Gift of the Magi is about the true meaning of Christmas gift giving. In today’s world, the author has addressed the emotions of the human heart, which govern human life. On the eve of Christmas, Della wanted to get Jim a gift. She only had $1.87 in her pocket. She had bargained with the grocer, the vegetable man, and the butcher to save it. She only had one dollar and eighty-seven cents to spend on Christmas Eve, however. She had planned to give the most valuable gift she could think of. But she had saved that pittance, which would not compel her to do the desired. She felt sorry for herself and her financial situation. She started crying because she had nothing else to do. It demonstrates that a person’s life is filled with sobbing, sniffles, and smiles. Sniffles, however, take precedence. Della’s emotional anguish and longing for her husband are alluded to in the line.
b. Looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard.
Answer: The colour “grey” connotes gloom and despair on Della’s part in this context. Della Dillingham wanted to surprise her husband on Christmas Eve with the most precious gift she could think of. But because she didn’t have enough money, she felt sorry for herself and her financial situation. Her emotions had taken over. Because there was little chance of improving her financial situation, everything appeared ‘grey’ to her. Della’s use of the colour grey evokes melancholy and despondency. Because she couldn’t find a suitable gift for her husband, her world was tinged with dreary misery.
c. Oh, and the next two hours passed by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.
Answer: Della wanted to get her husband Jim a Christmas present. She desired to present him with the most valuable gift she could think of. So she sold her prized possession, her long and beautiful hair, to buy it. Her next two hours flew by on rosy wings after she obtained the necessary funds for Jim’s Christmas present, as she was eager to bring something special for Jim. She went through the stores one by one, looking for the perfect gift, but she couldn’t find it. She was so excited that she looked for two hours. Despite the fact that she had lost her most prized possession, her long and beautiful hair, her joy knew no bounds. Della’s selflessness and willingness to contribute to the happiness of the one she loves are exemplified by this line.
d. She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else.
Answer: The author conveyed Della’s eagerness to find a suitable gift for Jim. Della wished to present Jim with a suitable gift. She was considering giving him the most valuable gift she could think of. Her most prized possession, her long and beautiful hair, was sold. After obtaining the required sum of money. She looked for a suitable present for him and eventually found one. She came across a platinum fob chain with a simple, chaste design. It was appropriate for Jim’s most prized possession, a gold watch. Like Jim, the present was simple and understatedly appealing. She realised it was only for Jim when she saw it. It was worthy of Jim’s gold watch. Despite its simplicity, it asserted its worth.
e. It was like him. Quietness and value-the description applied to both.
Answer: In this context, the author has addressed Della’s delight at Jim’s Christmas gift. The chain was intended to be simple and unobtrusive. Jim was more valuable to Della than anything else; she realised that the terms quietness and worth applied to both Jim and the platinum fob chain. It was simple and appealing, as if it had been custom-made for Jim. Its worth was demonstrated by its simplicity and design. It was also fitting for Jim.
f. She got her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends – a mammoth task.
Answer: Della wore her hair like a garment. She does, however, exchange her hair for a nice Christmas gift for Jim. She was concerned, however, that Jim would not find her attractive. She realised the gravity of the situation after returning home from shopping for a gift. She attempted to be prudent and logical. She repaired her hair with a curling iron, which took her over forty minutes. She repaired the damage done by love and generosity. Her selflessness and desire to contribute to the happiness of the one she loved were responsible for these ravages.
g. But what could I do-oh! What could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?
Answer: Della Dillingham, James Dillingham’s wife, wanted to surprise Jim with a thoughtful gift. She was thinking about giving the most valuable gift she could think of. Della, on the other hand, discovered she only had $1.87 to spend on Christmas Eve. She had saved some money, but it wouldn’t compel her to bring the desired one. She was depressed about her own situation and her financial situation. She knew it was Christmas the next day. She needed extra cash to buy Jim a gift. Della’s mental agency and love for her husband Jim are alluded to in the preceding line. She had worked hard to save it, but it would not grant her wish.
h. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.
Answer: Della had sacrificed her long, beautiful hair in order to give Jim a gift on Christmas Eve. When Jim got home, he was surprised by Della’s short hair. His gaze was fixed on Della, and he was unable to read her expression. He just stared at her with a strange expression. He didn’t have an angry, surprised, or disapproving expression on his face. Della was terrified because she had not anticipated such emotions and expressions. Jim was surprised to see Della because he had not expected to see her.
i. White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! A quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.
Answer: Jim had brought a pair of exquisite combs made of pure tortoise shell with jewelled rims as a Christmas gift. Della was overjoyed as she unwrapped the gift. She had long coveted and adored the combs in the Broadway window. These combs were very expensive, and she was well aware of it. Despite the fact that she had no chance of ever possessing them, her heart longed and yearned for them. When Jim handed her the gift, she let out an ecstatic scream of delight. But then she burst into laughter because the combs were hers, but the hair for which they were intended was no longer hers because she had cut it off to bring Jim a Christmas present. Della’s hair had fallen out, but she welcomed Jim’s gift with joy, hugging and smiling from the bottom of her heart.
j. ‘Dell’, said he, ‘let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present…’
Answer: Jim and Della came from a low-income family. They had to sell their most valuable possessions one Christmas in order to buy gifts for one another. Della gave up her long, lustrous hair, while Jim gave up a family heirloom, a valuable gold watch. Jim surprised Della with a set of tortoise shell combs, which she had always desired. Della, on the other hand, couldn’t use it because she had sold her long hair to pay for a platinum fob chain for Jim’s watch. As a result, Jim advised Della to keep their gifts hidden because they were too nice to use in the present. Despite the fact that Jim and Della were left with gifts that were too nice to use, they were not sad because they could see their love for each other. They demonstrated their love for one another by parting with their most prized possession.
k. 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.
Answer: According to the author, Jim and Della both gave up their most prized possession in order to purchase something to go with the other person’s most prized possession. Both acted rashly, sacrificing their most prized possession without thinking about the consequences and instead focusing on making each other happy. The author believes that those who give and receive gifts, such as Jim and Della, are the wisest people in the world. A present’s worth is determined not by its monetary value, but by the thought, sacrifice, and generosity that went into it. Jim and Della’s gifts were acts of love and sacrifice, similar to the three wise men of Christian legend who brought Christ priceless gifts at his birth.
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