In the introduction to the story (The Nightingale and the rose), the editors say:
Extracts from this essay...
THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE ROSE "But the Tree cried to the Nightingale..." to the end of the story. In the introduction to the story, the editors say: "Wilde uses the form of the fairy story to reflect upon modern life and debate ideas." In what ways do you think this extract supports this view? Oscar Wilde's story, "The Nightingale and the Rose", takes on the familiar fairytale form, however Wilde also incorporates modern issues in his writing. He uses the basic structure of a fairy story to communicate these issues with the reader. In this extract we see the Nightingale pressing her breast against the thorn in an effort to create a red rose for the student. As she presses closer the rose grows deeper in colour, "louder and louder grew her song, for she sang of the birth of passion". The louder and more meaningful her song becomes, the deeper the crimson colour of the rose becomes. "And a delicate flush of pink came into the leaves of the rose, like the flush in the face of the bridegroom when he kisses the lips of the bride."
The rose is child personified, growing from pure, the white of the rose, to passion. The complex meaning of the story is portrayed through fairytale techniques such as personification, then Wilde is able to go on to give the story an indirect meaning. In the introduction Wilde comments: 'The Nightingale is the true lover if there is one. She, at least, is Romance and the student and the girl are, like most of us, unworthy of Romance. So at least it seems to me but I like to fancy there may be many meanings in the tale..' This simultaneous meaning allows Wilde to criticise society, and he questions if we are worthy of love and whether we value the Arts, whether we even understand them. The Nightingale represents truth, beauty and art. By the end of the story we see that the Nightingale has sacrificed her life in vain, and here Wilde is saying how ignorant society is of these aspects of love, and here Wilde uses symbolic objects. As the thorn enters the Nightingale's heart "she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death", here she shows the ultimate love - love beyond the grave, "Love that dies not it the tomb".
"She would not sacrifice herself for others." The Professors daughter is also unworthy of love, "I am afraid it will not go with my dress" she answers as the Student presents the rose to her, "...everybody knows that jewels cost far more that flowers." She prefers material wealth to the great price paid by the Nightingale to produce the only red rose. And the rose is thrown onto the ground, falls in the gutter and run over by a cartwheel. This exaggerates the ignorance of society. "'What a silly thing Love is...'" comments the Student as he returns to a "great dusty book". In this deep story the Nightingale represents Wilde, the Student represents the ignorant society and the rose represents the artistic creation. Oscar Wilde himself being an artist in the way of writer, poet and art lecturer, criticises society's lack of appreciation for the arts. He uses a fairy story to reflect on modern life by using the illustration of the tale to portray his view. "'The Nightingale and the Rose' deals not only with the nature of romance and true love but also with art and the sacrifice of the artist."
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