“The Gift of the Magi” is a heart-warming story with an ironic twist. Write an essay in which you discuss either the personality traits and/or the actions of the two main characters, Della and Jim. Your essay should include a two-part thesis with specific details to prove your points.

Assessment of Quality in Expository Writing

  1. Introductory Paragraph: “Grabs” the reader’s attention by an interesting beginning and states a valid thesis in a clear, succinct manner.
  2. Thesis: All components of the assignment are included in the thesis.
  3. Body Paragraphs:
    • Details: Includes a substantial number of specific details which relate to the thesis, and this relationship is made clear.
    • Context: Context of every detail (quotation and/or incident) is presented to convey a thorough comprehension of the evidence.
    • Explanation: Details and the context in which they occur are clearly explained in relation to the thesis.
    • Style: Demonstrates a clear command of all three types of sentence structures (simple, compound, complex).
    • Mechanics: Exhibits a clear command of a broad range of conventions and mechanics (spelling, punctuation, capitalization, etc.).
  4. Organization and Coherence:
    • Organization: Essay is organized very clearly according to the elements of the thesis.
    • Coherence: Ideas follow each other logically from the beginning to the end of the text, and transitions between paragraphs are clear, thereby creating a coherent, unified whole.
  5. Concluding Paragraph: Synthesizes ideas and reformulates the thesis in a new and interesting manner.

Gift of Magi

What would you give away for love –  money, jewels, popularity?  Many writers have attempted to answer this question. However, the author who has done so with an ironic twist is O’Henry in his short story “The Gift of the Magi.”

(Two-part thesis) In this story, the two main characters, Della and Jim, show their love for each other by independently solving a problem that affects each of them and by ultimately maintaining their strong marriage.

Illustration #1

Their problem solving skills are exemplified when, faced with little money, they figure out a way to purchase a special Christmas present for each other.


On Christmas Eve Della has only $1.87 for Jim’s gift. After she cries about her situation, she thinks about her long hair, which she believes is worth more than the “Queen of Sheba’s jewels” (p.2). Then she goes out, stops in front of a shop that says “Hair Goods of All Kinds,” runs up the stairs and asks the owner to buy her hair, ultimately selling it for twenty dollars, enough money to purchase a fob chain for Jim’s watch

In a similar manner, Jim thinks that his gold watch, a possession that would make “King Solomon” envious (p.2), will bring him enough money to buy Della the hair combs she yearns for; so he sells it to purchase them.


In both instances, then, each individual makes a rational decision based upon an undesirable circumstance and a willingness to please each other.

Illustration #2

That their marriage is strong is demonstrated by their reaction to the discovery that each sold his/her prize possession.


On the same evening when Jim comes home for dinner, he is transfixed by his wife’s short hair, and Della finally admits that she s sold it to buy him a present and states, “Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered but nobody could ever count my love for you.” Shall I put the chops on?” (p.5) With these words, it is apparent that parting with her prize possession does not mean as much to Della as her love for her husband, for she is willing to forget about her loss and have dinner as usual. The same holds true for Jim. When Della asks to see how the fob chain looks on his watch, Jim suggests that they put their presents away for a while and then admits that he sold the watch “to get the money to buy [the] combs” and says, “And now suppose you put on the chops.” (p.6)


That he, too, is willing to forget about the material item and continue with dinner exemplifies the fact that being together is more important than the loss of their treasured possessions, thereby clarifying the strength of their love and marriage.


From these examples it is evident that although Della and Jim sacrificed their “greatest treasures” for each other, (p. 7) their ingenuity and loving marriage are truly “gifts of the magi.”