"The Gift of the Magi" may be the second most widely read O. Henry story in grammar, middle, and high school. "The Ransom of Red Chief" rates number one. Young readers and listeners have a slightly more difficult time relating to two young married people - old after all to them - than to 10-year-old Red Chief; his father, who makes the kidnappers pay him back in order to take Red Chief off their hands; and all the antics and excitement of it all.
"The Gift of the Magi" is not read or heard widely after one leaves high school, which is a shame, because it is such a magical story about expectations being crushed by realities, and the turn of events, which O. Henry was so masterful at achieving. The interesting twist is that these two people both sacrifice for each other, but that means neither of their gifts works out as planned. However (and O. Henry is full of howevers), the two are deeply in love and shrug it off and move on in their happiness. A final thought for the listener: Is there anyone similar to O. Henry in style? We can’t think of one, and that is another reason to listen to these stories.
As with all Simply short stories, you should enjoy the ideas put forth in the introduction and afterword: things to think about, or write about if you are a student. O. Henry's other two best-loved stories are also available: "The Cop and the Anthem" and "A Retrieved Reformation".
Public Domain (P)2011 Christina Brown