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51

There used to be a three-cent piece. Assuming that "The Gift of the Magi" is set in the US at around the time of its publication in 1905, there was a three-cent piece which was still minted until 1890. That's the closest non-multiple-of-five-cents coin to the period, although there was also a two-cent coin which stopped being minted a little ...


15

A quick look at Wikipedia lists a few obsolete coins which could be involved here, beyond the half cent: Two-cent bronze: 2¢, 1863–1873 Three-cent nickel: 3¢, 1865–1889 Trime (Three-cent silver): 3¢, 1851–1873 Given the story was published in 1905, the three cent nickel could have been still in use. As I understand it, all of these are still legal tender ...


14

The story is called The Discounters of Money. It occurs in the collection of O. Henry stories called Roads of Destiny. It occupies pages 379 to 384 in this book. …and there you have young Howard Pilkins with 4,000,000; and a good fellow at that. He was an agreeable, modestly arrogant young man, who implicitly believed that money could buy anything that ...


11

Yes, essentially this is a minor wordplay and double meaning. A "dumb brute" is a phrase that was commonly used to denote an animal, not necessarily even a savagely violent animal. I say "was" because I associate this phrase with a time in English writing when words like "brute" and "savage" carried less negative ...


8

The Defeat of the City It's the protagonist who issues the challenge, but the other details seem to match: That night when the greetings and the supper were over, the entire family, including Buff, the yellow dog, bestrewed itself upon the front porch. Alicia, not haughty but silent, sat in the shadow dressed in an exquisite pale-gray tea gown. ... Robert ...


7

O. Henry is considered a master of the short story, and this excerpt tells you why. His very first paragraph tells you something about a main character and about the conflict. Parsimony, or penny pinching, is generally considered an undesirable trait (or was in Henry's time). A young married woman such as Della would be responsible for shopping and cooking, ...


7

Gift of the Magi was published in 1905. As others have already identified, the US had a two-cent piece until 1872 and a three-cent piece until 1889 (but with much lower production after 1875). The US does not demonetize coins: those coins are still legal for payment today (though I expect that they're worth a lot more than faith value to collectors). A total ...


6

The entire phrase is a nonsensical piece of wordplay "The lame walk and the blind see" is a well known biblical phrase, said by Jesus to indicate his holiness. The phrase is corrupted here into nonsense, in keeping with the nonsense religious position he claims immediately before it, and the nonsense powers he claims after it. "The lame talk" makes no ...


5

A simpler interpretation is that that "dumb or talking" is merely contrasting "unable to speak" and "speaking". While you could extend that to discuss "human or beast", I think it's easier to read it as "talking or not".


5

The title Gift of the Magi, is a biblical allusion from Matthew 2:1 reading: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem” (KJV). The Greek word for ‘wise men’ is Μάγοι (magoi) (plural form of μάγος (magos)) meaning a Magian, i.e. Oriental scientist; by implication, a ...


5

The paragraph in which the quote from the question can be found goes as follows: "Him?" said Nancy, with her coolest, sweetest, most impersonal, Van Alstyne Fisher smile; "not for mine. I saw him drive up outside. A 12 H. P. machine and an Irish chauffeur! And you saw what kind of handkerchiefs he bought--silk! And he's got dactylis on him. Give me the ...


5

This is a traditional joke story, more amusing to the teller than the listener, that has existed for well over a hundred years. Dads tell the story to troll their kids. There are many versions. Sometimes it's soldiers hearing a tale told by their general. Sometimes it's children hearing a story told by their grandfather. Sometimes it's sailors hearing a ...


5

While both of the existing answers touch on relevant matters I believe they both miss the mark in terms of the intended meaning. @frathoss cites a range of definitions including one which supports the OED definition of 'rubber' as North American colloquial. To listen (in) on a party telephone line, or on any telephone conversation. but declares the ...


5

In the story it is clear from the starting line that Del and Jim were poverty-stricken. Such was the extent of poverty that even the cents were in pennies. Henry mentions the pennies were saved cautiously by (Della) almost pressurizing the grocer, the vegetable man or the butcher. She literally overpowered them (metaphorically bulldozed) and saved pennies ...


2

This solves the crux of the problem. Here, Ben Price is confident that Jimmy Valentine could, in a way, dodge the judiciary; he was to serve full term in jail. To show him clemency is just another name of foolishness; now, that mistake must not be repeated. During O. Henry's time (around 1900) 'bit' has the currency to mean legal punishment. In the use of ...


2

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 ...


1

You might be actually thinking about Faulkner's 'The Reivers', which begins with "Grandfather said:", and the rest of the book is one long quotation.


1

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.


1

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 ...


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