Literary Devices in The Gift of the Magi
Meretricious means aesthetically attractive, but containing no actual value. In this case, Della hopes that the watch will be valuable because of its sensible use, not its flashiness. This is also a piece of dramatic irony. The love between the couple is far more valuable to both of them than any material goods. Therefore the idea of purchasing a material gift in the hope that it will make Jim happy is itself “meretricious ornamentation.”
This line exemplifies O. Henry’s writing style. He asks the reader to “take a look at the home,” but only offers minimal description of what is inside (“the shabby little couch”), leaving the rest of the image of the apartment to be decided by the imagination of the reader.