The story starts out with Della thinking about her boyfriend Jim. She wants to buy him a present for him but she is afraid that she won't be able to afford it as her income has shrunk from $30 a day to a mere $20 a day.
Della realizes that she only has $1.87 to buy a present from Jim, not enough to buy him the present that she thinks he desires.
In order to buy a present for Jim, she decides to sell her hair for $20.
Della goes to buy a platinum chain for Jim. It costs her $21. Excitedly, she goes home and wants to show Jim her present. At the same time however, she is fearful of what Jim will think of her hair.
When Della meets Jim, he looks at her with a peculiar expression on his face. It turns out that Jim bought her combs but she has no hair and she bought him a chain for his watch but he sold it to buy Della combs.
In the end, they decide to keep their gifts to themselves. The story shows how people sacrifice their prized possessions for their loved ones.
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