What was not among whom? What did O. Henry want us to know from this line?

The author says this line after Jim hugs Della out of affection after seeing the magnitude of her sacrifice (her hair, which she parts with) for him.

The paragraph is:

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year - what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.
Full story

I can't interpret this one.

  • “The magi brought valuable gifts, but th[is particular one] was not among the[ gifts].” Jul 22, 2017 at 8:19
  • 1
    That's an interesting question. From context said gift seems to be the ability to judge the value of things, possibly implying that the couple were unwise by trading their treasures. But on the other hand, in the end of the story Del and Jim are "the wisest", same as the magi. Maybe it means that they were not given that ability, but acquired it after this story. Jul 22, 2017 at 8:52
  • @Gallifreyan Thanks for editing the raw question. I'm a horrible rookie. If we use a little grammar, "that was not among them". If Porter had referred to Del and Jim it would have been "that was not between them" (for referring to 2 people). Among was used to refer to the magi, the 3 wise men. I hope i'm not complicating it further.
    – cinebird
    Jul 22, 2017 at 16:29

3 Answers 3


That refers to the "answer" alluded to in the previous sentence. When you have a million dollars, you don't appreciate the things you already have. In the case of their gifts, it really is the thought that counts, because they've rendered each other's gifts useless.

Them refers to the titular gifts, specifically, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Henry may be implying that the Christ child didn't need the gift of wisdom.

  • That might be possible. If we use the entire para and its position in the story, it occurs exactly before either Jim or Del have revealed their presents. A similar para is the concluding para occuring after they reveal their gifts.
    – cinebird
    Jul 23, 2017 at 10:48

I differ in my perception here.

The Magi brought gifts that are considered wise, the reason is the gold brought as gift symbolises 'influence' which infant Jesus was to acquire afterwards as a mentor for his disciples his followers and his menfolk; frankincense symbolises Him as a holy spirit and myrrh his early demise as myrrh is a perfume used preferably over dead bodies.

The sentence means those gifts they brought were symbols but what they symbolise have nothing to do with those Magi. They were not so influential as Jesus was to become later on; not so sacred as Jesus who was a holy spirit and they were not to meet their demise at so early an age as Jesus did.

'That' means the what those gifts represented and 'them' means 'the Magi'.

If I am wrong, I may be corrected.

  • You are aptly correct in your interpretation of why the wise gifts were meant to be. But I asked why ''That was not among Them.''
    – cinebird
    Aug 31, 2017 at 14:58

As I see it, the gift that the Magi didn't bring was sacrifice (sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house), which doesn't require money (Eight dollars a week or a million a year - what is the difference?) and which Jesus didn't need, because he had already decided to be born to sacrifice himself for us.

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