The Gift of the Magi Questions

Gift of the Magi Questions

Get The Gift of the Magi Unit over four blog posts. This third post The Gift of the Magi Questions, contains constructed response writing questions with organizers for students to plan their writing. Questions include summarizing, theme, course of action, and comparing different versions.

The Gift of the Magi is a heartwarming story of a young married couple who sell their most prized possessions to have money to buy gifts for each other. It makes a beautiful mini-unit to teach during the Christmas season.

Get the printable questions and answer keys from this post here.

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The Gift of the Magi Questions

Question 1

List one theme that is repeated several times in the story. List examples of this theme.

Example Answers

Theme Love

Example #1

Della welcomes Jim warmly when he comes home from work.

Proof from Text

But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Example #2

Della saves money, so she can get Jim a Christmas gift.

Proof from Text

Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling – something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

Example #3

Della excitedly shops for Jim’s gift.

Proof from Text

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

Theme Sacrifice

Example #1

For weeks, Della embarrassingly shops with the butcher and grocer to try to save money.

Proof from Text

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.

Example #2

Della sells her most prized possession.

Proof from Text

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practiced hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Example #3

Jim sells his most prized possession to have money to buy Della a Christmas gift.

Proof from Text

For there lay The Combs–the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoiseshell, with jeweled rims–just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

Question 2

Explain what course of action you would take if you were in Jim or Della’s situation.

Why would your course be a more effective course than the course they chose?

Question 3

Select the 10 most important events from the story. Use these details to write a summary.

Example Summary

  • Della Dillingham Young counts her money and finds she has only $1.87 to buy her husband Jim a Christmas gift.
  • Della cries because she has tried to save money for weeks to buy a gift.
  • When Della goes to the mirror and lets down her long hair, she gets an idea.
  • Della goes to Madame Sofronie’s and sells her hair for $20.00.
  • Della finds Jim the perfect gift, a chain for his prized watch.
  • After returning to her apartment, Della curls her short hair. She prepares dinner and waits for Jim to come home.
  • Jim arrives home at 7:00. He is surprised when he sees Della has cut her hair. He can only stare at her.
  • A little later Jim snaps out of his trance and gives Della her Christmas present, two beautiful combs for her hair.
  • Della cries and Jim holds her. She cannot use the beautiful combs in her short hair. Della then gives Jim the watch chain.
  • The two discover that each sold a prized possession to have money to buy the other a Christmas gift.

Additional Questions

  • Write an argumentative essay. Select Della or Jim to argue which character gave up the most valuable possession.
  • Rewrite the story from Jim’s perspective.
  • Compare different versions of the story.

I hope your students will enjoy this unit.


The Gift of the Magi ~ Free Lesson Plans ~ Part 3 Constructed Response Writing
This packet contains constructed response writing prompts with graphic organizers. It also contains additional writing suggestions.

Click here to download the resource.

I hope your students will enjoy this unit.

The Gift of the Magi ~ Free Lesson Plans ~ Part 2 Comprehension


Click here to download The Gift of the Magi questions.



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