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What are the rules regarding gifts you receive? Can you give them away? If so, must you conceal that you have done so from the original giver? Or is there a statute of limitations, after which any right the original giver has to feel wronged or to burden you with guilt for undervaluing it by giving it away rightly expires? Even an heirloom might exhaust its sacredness. Sometimes the sacred has a half-life, as might be the case, for instance, with your grandmother’s dining set. Can the giver ask for his gifts back if you try to give them away? Might he be able to sue to recover it? Can he justly hate you for giving it away, feel wronged? Does it matter whether the gift was the initiatory gift, the one that started it all, or that it was a payback for a prior gift, or that it was a closing gift, a gift to send someone on their way never to return, as were the swords and cloaks Norwegian kings gave to departing Icelanders? Are there differ- ent rules for different kinds of gifts, a sword by one rule, a cloak or an ox or an axe by another?


Published as Miller, William I. "Is a Gift Forever?" Representations 100 (2007): 13-22. © [2007] by the Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California/on behalf of the Sponsoring Society] for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® on [JSTOR (] or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center,