The Gift of the Magi

by O. Henry

Read time: about 4 minutes

Given that the birthday is just around the corner, it was only apt to post this review as a pre-birthday reminder ( yes, it was set around Christmas, but the theme is GIFTS!, and is there a better time to contemplate on the culture of giving gifts than now!?). Having chanced upon this book in the classic sections, I was quite taken by its pretty cover. The Gift of the Magi is a beautiful short read originally published in 1905.


It is one of those books that I simply downloaded because of its cover. Though it is not the most elaborately done cover page, the green background with a painted illustration of a jeweled comb is quite appealing in the most endearing ways. Having published with many covers, most of which have the lead protagonists on it, my kindle copy has a simple green cover-page.


This is a short story that revolves around a young couple - Della Dillingham Young and her husband Jim. With no other significant characters The Gift of the Magi is not a love story, but a story displaying love and affection.


With Christmas upon them, Della is disheartened for she has only $1.87 to buy a present for her beloved husband. Living in a miserly flat and stricken by poverty, Della has no means to raise a substantial amount for a present.The two things that they absolutely treasure are the lovely brown locks Della is blessed with, and a gold watch that was inherited by Jim. The story takes the reader through this little event in the life of these people who love each other, and how they overcome their problems to find a little something to express their love for each other.

The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones….


Written from a third person’s perspective, the language used is simple and easy to get accustomed to. The description is crisp and to the point, providing ample amount of details without being too draggy.

Good Points

The length of the story is perfect. The way it is woven is very appealing – it is short and direct, while at the same time covering every significant detail, all leading to the right kind of build up leading to a heartwarming end.What is really commendable is how, though the story is short, the character portrayals are done in such a way that without having a long bond with the characters you still relate with them already.

Bad Points

As much as I love the length of the book, which leaves one wanting more I can’t help but complain that maybe it would be nice if it were a little bit longer, maybe just another page, just one more.


I had no prior knowledge of this book, but as I read along I realised that it was adapted as a story-line for a music video that I absolutely adore ( with all the essential touches to make it more appealing to the modern mass). Apart from loving the plot already, this book tugs at your heart in a very gentle way.

It is a beautiful reminder to us about the lengths one goes for the ones they love, and at the same time how gifts are not mere things but a token displaying love, affection and gratitude. Most of all, the book leaves me with a heartwarming afterglow, that no matter what one gives each other – big or small, expensive or inexpensive, it is the emotion behind it that makes it truly priceless.

Who do I recommend this to?

To everyone! Irrespective of what genre you are fond of, a book like this will always find a place in your heart due to its sheer simplicity and simple and very realistic portrayal of love.

Quotable Quotes

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

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.

Gazala Amreen

Logophile, bibliophile, writer, designer, high on wanderlust and all things pretty.

Bangalore, KA