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Is The Nightingale and the Rose (Oscar Wilde) just a child's fairy tale or a criticism of love and society?

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Is 'The Nightingale And The Rose' just a child's fairy tale or is it a more complex criticism of love and society? The Nightingale and the Rose is a 'fairy tale' story written by Oscar Wilde, originally for his two sons, in the late 1880s. Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin (Ireland) 1854, and was well known for his wit and story telling. He was a famous poet, art lecturer, author and scriptwriter. But at the height of his success he was involved in a court case over a homosexual affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. Found guilty, he was sentenced two years hard labour and when he was eventually released, he was physically and psychologically broken. When Wilde wrote The Nightingale and the Rose, he was working as an editor for a woman's magazine (1887-1889), just before the height of his career. It was written as part of a collection of fairy tales: The Happy Prince and other stories and is a story, which focuses on a lovelorn student, anxious to find a rose to bring his love and a sympathetic nightingale, observing the student's anguish. As there is no rose, the student fears his heart will be broken. The nightingale then seeks a rose for the student, encountering a tree that can provide a rose, but only if the nightingale sacrifices itself, its own blood providing the redness of the rose. The nightingale embarks on one final flight prior to its martyrdom, telling the student to only be a true lover, "...for love is wiser than philosophy." Here, the student attempts to analyse the bird, and while enjoying her singing, claims, "they do not mean anything or do any practical good." The final outcome is tragic, the student's love refuses the rose for jewels, the student throws away the rose and doesn't realise how it was produced. So the nightingale's sacrifice is not appreciated. ...read more.


is no red rose"' This could show that Wilde feels the public are incapable of finding or seeing love, because the student can't find a rose. But, the reason why he is looking for a rose is not only for the girl but also for him. Because he thinks that, if he gives the girl a rose he will have the pleasure of her company, if he gives he will get something in return. So he is doing it for himself and not truly understanding love. Therefore Wilde could be criticising adults, not only as na�ve in love, but also selfish in love, unable to understand love and incapable of finding or seeing love, like the student is, in the story. What is also interesting about the idea of the public not understanding or seeing love, is that it is more likely to be a love that is generally known for being misunderstood or looked down on, especially in the 19th century: Homosexual love. Wilde could be centring his criticism on this, as this story was written not long before the court case of his homosexual affair. What the nightingale represents can also be established soon after, and not only by how she reacts but also what she is, a singer: '"Here indeed is the true lover," said the Nightingale. " What I sing of, he suffers: what is a joy to me, to him is pain. Surely Love is a wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds, and dearer than fine opals...It may not be purchased of the merchants nor can it be weighed out in the balance for gold."' Because of how the nightingale sings about love, and the strong feelings she has for it, it suggests that she represents love as feelings and actions: romance. So the story is also about the combination of love (the rose) and what you should do and how you should feel when you're in true love, therefore romance (the nightingale). ...read more.


In fact, it is quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics." So he returned to his room and pulled out a great dusty book, and began to read.' The student would prefer to go back to his books, where he understands them and is secure, rather than try again for love, despite the nightingale repeatedly trying for him. This could suggest that people in society are too lazy to take risks for love, something that may even scare people because they don't understand it; they are not willing to try again, even when someone has already done so for them. The student threw away the rose in the same way some people in society see love as insignificant. But why should these people deserve love if they are not willing to make sacrifices for it? Wilde could also be suggesting that modern society revolves around money and careers rather than love and happiness, like the girl chose jewels over the rose, and the student threw away the rose and returned to his books. The sudden change to realism, a discomforting ending, rather than a happy, fairy tale ending, makes The Nightingale and the Rose most questionable as children's literature, and more likely to be aimed at adults. Johann C. Friedrich von Schiller comments: "Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life." One can understand what he means by this, when the possible meanings of fairy tales are considered. They allow one to think about and question theirs and others view. Not only is The Nightingale and the Rose a criticism of love and society, but it also, in a way, questions whether true love, heterosexual or homosexual, can exist in modern society, whether love itself is realistic or fanciful like fairy tales. 1 ...read more.

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