The Gift of the Magi Essay Topics

Instructor: Christine Jarus

Christine has over twenty years of experience in education. She is certified in learning disabilities, behavior disorders, elementary education and high school communication arts. She also holds a principal certification and has obtained a doctorate degree in educational leadership.

This lesson provides essay questions to use with ''The Gift of the Magi'' by O. Henry. These questions can be used for written assignments and/or can be used to spark discussions in class.

''The Gift of the Magi'' is a short story with a lot of symbolism and meaning. Below are essay prompts that will help students analyze the main themes and other elements of the story. For all essay topics, students should be asked to provide thorough textual evidence to support their response and inferences.


The theme, a main idea or message of a story, is an important literary element. These questions will assess student's knowledge identifying themes in ''The Gift of the Magi.''

  1. Explain the meaning of the short story title, ''The Gift of the Magi.''
  2. Young love is a strong theme present in ''The Gift of the Magi.'' Using supporting details from the story, explain how O. Henry suggests this theme throughout the work.
  3. What message is O. Henry trying to convey about wealth?
  4. Explain the theme of irony in the story, citing examples from the text.
  5. Compare and contrast the irony of this story to an example of irony in your own life.


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