Answer Key for Gift of the Magi

Lesson Plan: The Gift That Keeps Giving:  ‘The Gift of the Magi’

II. While Reading Tasks

Vocabulary:  Word Inference

  1. unselfish |ˌənˈselfiSH| adjective-willing to put the needs or wishes of others before one’s own: unselfish devotion.
  2. shabby  |ˈSHabē| adjective -in poor condition through long or hard use or lack of care: a conscript in a shabby uniform saluted the car.
  3. furnished |ˈfərniSHt| adjective-(of accommodations) available to be rented with furniture.
  4. vestibule |ˈvestəˌbyo͞ol| noun-an antechamber, hall, or lobby next to the outer door of a building.
  5. calculated |ˈkalkyəˌlātid| verb-determine (the amount or number of something) mathematically
  6. whirl |(h)wərl|verb-move or cause to move rapidly around and around.
  7. Possessions) |pəˈzeSHən| noun- an item of property; something belonging to one.
  8. falter |ˈfôltər| verb-start to lose strength or momentum: her smile faltered and then faded.
  9. ransack |ˈranˌsak, ranˈsak| verb-search through (a place or receptacle) to find something, esp. in such a way as to cause disorder and/or damage.
  10. peculiar |pəˈkyo͞olyər| adjective-strange or odd; unusual.

Questions for Comprehension

  1. The holiday is Christmas. We know this because in the first paragraph Della states,“One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.”
  2. The three characters are Della, Jim, and Madame Sofronie.
  3. For Jim it was his watch; for Della her hair.
  4. She had $1.87 to buy Jim a gift.
  5. She sold her hair.
  6. She bought Jim a chain for his watch.
  7. He sold his watch.
  8. He bought her  beautiful combs for her hair.
  9. Things did not work out the way Jim and Della planned because each of their gifts became useless. She had no hair and he had no watch.   

Questions for Reflection

Some themes: Love, poverty, money, and sacrifice.

Symbols for the most precious items:  Jim’s watch and Della’s hair.  

Symbols of poverty are: the descriptions of the apartment, (its worn carpet, the broken doorbell) and the clothes the couple wore  (the old brown jacket and hat, Jim’s worn overcoat).

Some examples of imagery from the story:

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week.

“Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied.”

“She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard.”

The magi were Biblical figures from the Bible. They were the three wise men who bought gifts to honor the birth of Jesus. Their gifts symbolized the most precious items in the world that could be given to the baby Jesus.

In comparison,  Della and Jim’s gifts were the best that they could afford to give to each other. This  comparison of Jim and Della’s  gifts to those of  the Magi helps to explain how very much these two loved each other.