I am a sucker for short stories. It was only in the latter part of my teen years that I took to reading full-fledged novels. Before that, my only connect to literature was reading a bunch of short stories and poems. Academic or otherwise. One such short story that stayed with me was long after I read it was ‘The Gift Of Magi‘ by O. Henry. It didn’t make a lot of sense when I first read it as a kid and thought it was too simple. The brilliance reveling in that simplicity hit me years after I’d read it first.
‘The Gift of the Magi’, written by O Henry in the year 1906, is a simple story about a young, married couple’s quest to find each other the perfect Christmas gift. In securing these ‘perfect gifts’, however, each partner is forced to give up something highly valuable, and precious to them, resulting in a rather unfortunate twist.
One of my favourite lines from the short story is: “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.”
This line is made all the more wonderful by the contradiction of the line immediately preceding it, which suggests that the couple were extremely “unwise” for giving up their greatest treasures. The delightful contradiction forces the reader to consider how the couple could be considered both “unwise” and yet also the “wisest of all”. In doing so, O. Henry invites the reader to recognise that, although the valuable sacrifices the couple make for each other ultimately reduce their gifts to irrelevance, their sacrifices were made out of love, and are therefore the most valuable gifts of all.
Isn’t it beautiful? Read it here if you haven’t already read it.