Historical Context in The Gift of the Magi
The couple’s mutually sacrificial gifts is reminiscent of the biblical Magi story, which is referenced at the conclusion of the narrative. The biblical Magi is another name for the three wise men, or three kings, who visited Jesus at his birth in Bethlehem. In the story, King Herod, the king of Judea, hears a prophecy from the Magi that a child will be born who will come to be the king of the Jews. Herod orders the execution of all male infants in his kingdom, an event referred to as the Massacre of the Innocents. When he discovers that Jesus has survived the massacre, he sends the three wise men to collect him. However, rather than kidnapping the child, the three men fall to their knees and offer him everything they have in their chests: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The gift-giving act of the wise men began the Christian tradition to exchange gifts on Christmas. Jim’s and Della’s gifts are compared to those presented by the Magi at the end of the story. This comparison suggests that Jim’s and Della’s gifts are just as wise and honorable as those that the biblical Magi presented to the baby Jesus.