William Sydney Porter
Born: September 11, 1862
Greensboro North Carolina
Died: June 5, 1910 (47 yrs. Old)
Pen name: O. Hendry, Olivier Henry, Oliver
Style: known for his wit, wordplay, warm
characterization, and clever twist endings.
loving, warm, selfless, and
devoted woman to her husband.
Jim- he is the husband of
Della who works long hours but
the salary is low.
Madame Sofronie- the owner
of a hair shop where Della sold
Della is married to Jim and they live in a shabby flat house. They
were poor but they love each other. It is Christmas time and she
wants to give Jim a nice Christmas gift but she only have $1.87
she does not have much money. When she sees herself in the
mirror, she found a solution. Della goes to Madame Sofranie’s
store and sells her beautiful hair for $20. With her new
funds, Della is able to find Jim the perfect present: an elegant
platinum watch chain costs $21. When Della got home she
prepares dinner. Jim arrives home and stares fixedly at her then
found out that Della’s hair was gone. After a while Jim gives her a
gift, the gift is a fancy combs she’s wanted for a long time but now
it has no use for her. Jim tells her that he sold his watch to pay for
her Christmas gift. Then Della gives him her present, a watch
chain. Jim told Della to put away their presents to have their
It was Christmas eve and Della wants to buy a Christmas present for her husband
but she only has $1.87.
Della sells her hair.
Della gets the money to buy Jim a great present by selling her hair.
When Jim arrives, he doesn't seem to react well: he stares at Della and can't seem to
process that her hair is gone.
When Jim snaps out of his shock, he tells Della that his reaction will make sense
when Della opens the present he bought her.
When Della opens Jim's present and find the combs, we understand why Jim was
so shocked. It also becomes clear now that he's not angry with Della, and he assures
her he will love her no matter how she looks.
Della gives Jim the watch chain.
Presented with his gift, Jim calmly reveals (with a smile) that he sold his watch to
buy Della her combs. So her present is useless too. Well, that does it for the Christmas
The narrator tells us that it doesn't really matter that Jim and Della's presents
turned out to be useless. They are the wisest givers of all – in fact, they're the magi.
We leave feeling satisfied and happy.
The story tells us the unconditional love of Della and Jim for each other. They are
generous and willing to sacrifice everything just to make their partner happy.
The gold of the watch may symbolize several things: love, purity, money
(which the couple lacks), and eternity (gold does not rust or tarnish). Some
interpreters believe that because it is a Christmas story, the gold in this tale
symbolizes divinity, such as Jesus or God himself.
The watch in the story can represent time, the future (which the couple
hopes to spend together), the end of the year, or eternity. It may represent
the couple's transition from starry-eyed youths to mature and generous
The young wife's hair in the story can symbolize many things: youth (young
women generally wear their hair longer), vitality and sexuality. In a way, by
giving up her hair, the woman in the story is agreeing to give her
youth, sexuality, and "best years of her life" to her husband.
The combs are a symbol of the young husband's love for his wife, as he
gave up his most precious possession so that his wife would be happy
and beautifully adorned.
Like the combs, the watch chain is a symbol of the wife's love for her
husband. She has just as much emotional attachment to her hair as he
did to his watch. Yet she gave it up willingly to purchase the one thing
she thought would bring her husband happiness. The chain may also
symbolize their marriage, an institution that provides a "link" between
Since the story takes place at Christmastime, the season can be said to
represent the original Magi, who were wise men who visited the Baby
Jesus. Reports differ as to whether they were actually present at the
birth, or arrived afterwards. Regardless, sources generally agree that they
brought gold, frankincense and myrrh -- valuable items in the ancient world.