Short Story Review: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

O. Henry is the pen name for the American short story writer, William Sydney Porter, who was born in 1862.  His stories are well known for their surprise endings. This short story was originally published n Dec 10, 905 in The New York Sunday World, and was subsequently published in O. Henry’s 1906 short story collection The Four Million.

It falls into the genre of fictional short story as well as the sub-genre of dramatic irony.

Jim and Della Dillingham are a poor, young married couple who don’t have enough money to buy Christmas presents for each other. Both sell their prized possessions to pay for a gift for the other at Christmas time.

I like how O. Henry uses similes throughout the short story like when he compares Della’s hair to ‘rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters’. He does the same when he describes Jim as well, ‘as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail’. While some use of the language is hard to grasp understanding, I am sure for the places and time period it was written, it made perfect sense.

I liked how the reader learns a secret that the main characters are unaware of yet, it creates a unique personability towards the story, as a reader, I just wanted to tell them. I will be reading more of his works as to see how his famous pattern of surprise endings are worded and use that to help my own surprise endings.

Henry, O. (1906). The gift of the magi. Retrieved from


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