About the Author
William Sydney Porter (September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910) was an American short story writer known by the pen name O. Henry. He was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, growing up working in his father’s drugstore, becoming a licensed pharmacist at age 19. In his early twenties, he moved to Texas to improve his health, where he met his future wife, Athol. Her parents objected to the match because she was ill with tuberculosis, but the couple eloped. Athol encouraged Porter to write and he began to do so while employed as a draftsman, banker, and bookkeeper. Later, an audit of the books revealed that Porter had taken money from the bank whose books he was keeping.
Porter was arrested on charges of embezzlement and fled to Honduras to avoid being incarcerated. He returned when he learned his wife was terminally ill, and the authorities refrained from arresting him until after she passed away. He was given the lightest possible sentence for his crime, serving little over three years. He was allowed to work in the prison pharmacy and to write to support his daughter. He wrote and published many stories from prison.
Upon his release he reunited with his eleven-year-old daughter, remarried, and continued to write. He fell into alcoholism, becoming ill with cirrhosis of the liver which eventually killed him at age 47.
“The Gift of the Magi”
The most famous of O. Henry’s stories focuses on selflessness and the true spirit of giving on Christmas.
Questions for “The Gift of the Magi”
What does the title reveal about the theme of the story?
What examples of groupings of three did you notice in the story?
How would the story be different if we saw if from Jim’s perspective rather than Della’s?
How does the moral of this story compare to other classic Christmas stories such as A Christmas Carol or “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”?
Did the story end the way you expected it would? Why or why not?
Storybooks for Elementary, Intensive Support, and Preschool