The Gift of The Magi CommonLit Answers

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  • 8th Grade
  • Lexile: 890

Source: The Gift of The Magi by O. Henry

Read Also:
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The Gift Of The Magi Questions And Answers

Assessment Answers

QuestionAnswer
Which of the following best states a theme from the story?Unselfish love is the greatest of all gifts
How does the first paragraph help develop the plot of the story?
It illustrates how rude Della is
It illustrates how independent Della is
It illustrates how expensive it is to live in London
It illustrates how concerned with money Della is
It illustrates how concerned with money Della is
Irony is when something unexpected happens in the story. Explain how the ending of “The Gift of the Magi” is ironic.The ending of “The Gift of the Magi” is ironic because the gifts that Jim and Della give each other become useless due to their acts of self-sacrifice, which is an unexpected outcome. Della sells her long, beautiful hair to buy a platinum fob chain for Jim’s prized watch, while Jim sells his watch to buy a set of combs for Della’s hair.
The irony lies in the fact that each has sold their most treasured possession to buy a gift that complements the other’s treasure, rendering the gifts impractical. This twist – where their acts of love simultaneously negate the utility of their gifts – is unexpected and forms the crux of the story’s ironic ending.
What is the purpose of paragraph 5’s discussion of the name “Dillingham”?The purpose of paragraph 5’s discussion of the name “Dillingham” in “The Gift of the Magi” is to highlight the couple’s fall from a relatively more prosperous past and to emphasize the humble, loving nature of their relationship despite financial hardships.
The mention of the name “Dillingham” being used during a period when Jim was earning more money ($30 per week) compared to their current reduced income ($20 per week) serves to illustrate the change in their financial circumstances. The idea of possibly dropping the “Dillingham” in favor of a more “modest and unassuming D” reflects their adjustment to a less affluent lifestyle.
However, the key point in this paragraph is how these financial circumstances do not affect the warmth and affection in their relationship. Regardless of the name and its associations with past prosperity, Jim is simply “Jim” to Della, and he is greeted with love and affection when he comes home. This underscores the theme of the story that love and emotional richness prevail over material wealth.
PART A: What does the term “pier-glass” mean, as it is used in paragraph 7?A mirror
PART B: Which detail from the text best supports the answer to Part A?” … by observing his reflection … ” (Paragraph 7)
“Della, being slender, had mastered the art.”
(Paragraph 7)
Reread paragraph 45. How are Jim and Della similar to the Magi?Jim and Della make great sacrifices to give each
other special Christmas gifts

Discussion Answers

Describe how the theme of sacrifice and love develop in this text.

The theme of sacrifice and love in “The Gift of the Magi” develops through the actions and decisions of the main characters, Jim and Della. This theme is woven into the narrative from the beginning and reaches its climax at the end.

  1. Initial Set-Up: The story starts by establishing the couple’s financial struggles. Della’s intense concern over having only $1.87 to buy a Christmas gift for Jim sets the stage for the theme. This small sum of money, painstakingly saved, underscores their poverty but also hints at Della’s willingness to sacrifice for love.
  2. Sacrificial Actions: The theme of sacrifice becomes more pronounced when Della decides to sell her most prized possession, her long, beautiful hair, in order to buy a special gift for Jim. This act of selflessness is a clear demonstration of her love.
    Simultaneously, unbeknownst to Della, Jim makes a similar sacrifice. He sells his cherished gold watch, an heirloom from his father and grandfather, to buy a set of combs for Della’s hair. Both sacrifices are made out of deep love and the desire to bring joy to the other.
  3. Ironical Revelation and Deepened Love: The theme reaches its zenith at the story’s end, when the couple discovers that each has sold their most valued possession to buy a gift that complements the other’s now-gone treasure. The irony in this discovery is poignant and underscores the depth of their love and willingness to sacrifice for each other. It’s not the material gifts that matter, but the love and selflessness behind them.
  4. Reflection and Realization: In the final analysis, the story reflects on the wisdom of their actions, comparing them to the Magi. The narrative suggests that, like the Magi who gave gifts to Jesus out of love and reverence without expecting anything in return, Jim and Della’s gifts, borne out of sacrifice, are the most genuine forms of expression of their love for each other.

The development of the theme of sacrifice and love in “The Gift of the Magi” is a journey from financial hardship and concern, through acts of personal sacrifice, to a powerful realization about the true nature of giving and the depth of their love for each other.


What does “The Gift of the Magi” teach us about love? Explain your answer.

“The Gift of the Magi” teaches us that true love is selfless and willing to sacrifice. The story illustrates that the value of love is not in material possessions or wealth, but in the selflessness and generosity that come from genuinely caring for another person. Key lessons about love from the story include:

  1. Love is Selfless: Jim and Della each sacrifice their most treasured possessions not for personal gain, but to bring joy to the other. Their actions are driven purely by their love for each other, demonstrating that love often involves putting the needs and happiness of a loved one above one’s own desires.
  2. Material Value vs. Emotional Value: The story emphasizes that the emotional value of a gift is far more important than its material value. The gifts that Jim and Della give each other become meaningless in a practical sense after their sacrifices. However, the emotional value of these gifts – the demonstration of their love and willingness to sacrifice – is profound.
  3. Love Involves Understanding and Empathy: Both characters deeply understand what would make the other happy. This level of empathy and thoughtfulness is a critical component of love.
  4. Irony and the Unexpected Nature of Love: The story’s ironic ending, where both characters end up with gifts they can no longer use, illustrates that love can be unpredictable and doesn’t always result in perfect outcomes. However, these imperfections do not diminish the love that the characters have for each other; in fact, they highlight the depth of their love.
  5. Enduring Love Beyond Materialism: The story conveys that love endures even when material possessions arelost. Their loss does not weaken Jim and Della’s love but rather strengthened through their acts of sacrifice.

“The Gift of the Magi” is a story that conveys the message that love is not about expensive gifts or material possessions, but rather about the selfless actions and sacrifices made for the sake of a loved one’s happiness.

The true essence of love lies in the intention and thought behind the act, which embodies the spirit of love.


The holidays are often considered a time for family. Consider the role of family in this story. In the context of this story, what is the meaning of family? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.

In “The Gift of the Magi,” the concept of family, particularly the relationship between Jim and Della, plays a central role in exploring the themes of love, sacrifice, and the true spirit of giving. In this context, the meaning of family goes beyond mere biological or legal ties; it encompasses a deep, selfless bond and mutual care and respect.

  1. Selfless Love and Sacrifice Within the Family: Jim and Della, though a young couple, embody the essence of family through their selfless love and willingness to sacrifice their most prized possessions for each other’s happiness. This mirrors the ideal familial love where members put each other’s needs and happiness above their own. Their actions reflect the sentiment expressed in many family dynamics – a readiness to give up something of great personal value for the well-being of a loved one.
  2. Family as a Source of Comfort and Joy: Despite their financial struggles, Jim and Della find joy and comfort in each other’s company. Their modest Christmas celebration is not about lavish gifts or grand feasts; it’s about the love and warmth they share. This aspect of family is reflected in various forms of literature and art, where the presence and support of family members offer comfort in times of need, such as in Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” where the March sisters and their mother find happiness in each other’s company despite financial hardships.
  3. Historical and Cultural Perspectives: Historically, families have been the cornerstone of holiday celebrations, serving as a time for reunion, reflection, and shared joy. This concept is evident in numerous holiday stories and traditions worldwide, where the gathering of family is a central theme, as seen in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” where the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge brings him closer to understanding the value of family and community.
  4. Personal Reflection: From a personal standpoint, the holidays often underscore the importance of family as a unit of love and support. It’s a time when people set aside their busy schedules to reunite, share stories, and create memories, emphasizing the emotional bond rather than the material aspects of the celebration.
  5. Artistic Representations: In art, family gatherings during the holidays are often depicted as warm, joyful occasions, emphasizing togetherness, love, and the act of sharing – elements that are vividly portrayed in Norman Rockwell’s paintings, for example.

In the context of “The Gift of the Magi” and broader cultural, historical, and personal contexts, family is defined not just by blood or marriage but by the bonds of love, sacrifice, and mutual support.

The story underscores that the essence of family lies in the intangible gifts of love and selflessness, which are especially poignant during the holiday season.

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Dr. Evelyn Wordsworth
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Dr. Evelyn Wordsworth is a seasoned linguist and literacy educator with over 7 years of experience in the field. Holding a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the prestigious Harvard University, Evelyn has dedicated her career to exploring the intricacies of language acquisition and promoting literacy among diverse learner populations.

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