The Happy Prince is a story written by author Oscar Wilde and was published in 1888. The story talks about a statue that can talk and then asks a swallow to do tasks for him. It is a simple yet meaningful story; therefore, this essay will first be about the summary of the story then it will discuss the symbolism of the statue of the Happy Prince, next
it will show the contribution of the statue in the story, and the last paragraph will be the reflection of the whole story.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The story took place in a city where the statue of the happy prince, which was coated in gold, was placed in the middle of the city. One day a little swallow went to the city and then stayed on the statue. Night after night, the statue of the Happy Prince would ask the swallow to take the valuable things on his body and give them to the poor people until the statue had no jewel left. In the end, the swallow died, the statue was removed, and the swallow’s body and the statue’s heart were taken to heaven.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">When the prince was still alive, he lived a happy life without knowing any misery outside his castle, but when he died and was built as a statue, he was portrayed as an empathetic prince. From the beginning till the end of the story, the statue of the happy prince was always thinking of his people, and since he was placed in the middle of the city, he could see everything from there. He would then ask the swallow, which was the only companion he had, to take his jewels and give them to the poor, and this is a qualification that a leader should have. The Happy Prince thought of his people as the most important thing in his life and he would do anything to make their lives better.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">There are many contributions from the Happy Prince statue as it is written in the story. The first contribution is the ruby on the sword of the statue that he told the swallow to give it to a woman whose kid was ill. The others are the sapphire eyes that were later given to a writer and a young girl. Eventually, the gold which covered the statue was all given to the poor people in the city. However, these contributions are not recommended in the real society because it will not last forever and soon after the people will be back to their poor situation and the one who gives all the things is just punishing himself as he’s giving everything he has until he has none left, and in the end the one who gives will end up being poor just like the one to whom he’s given the things.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">After reading and studying this story, I have come to realize that this story has given insight to its reader. First, it is shown that people should not think just about the outer beauty but also the inner as well. In the story, people love the statue of the happy prince as he is covered in gold and jewelry, but when all gold and jewelry are gone, the major tears down the statue and melt it in the furnace. And last thing is that people should help each other especially the rich should help the poor so that the society can get better.</p>
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The Happy Prince and Other Tales, a collection of short stories published 1888, is often overlooked in Oscar Wilde’s body of work. The heavy Christian undertones suggest that Wilde was inspired by the works of Hans Christian Andersen, however, as one reads on, it becomes clear that Wilde does not believe in the transcendent powers of agony. The underlying antagonism to christian ideals is interesting as it foreshadows his future marxist influenced essay “The Should of Man Under Socialism,” where he presents socialism as an agent of self-realization and individualism. The fairy tales paint the picture of an artist who feels weigh down by the rigidity of Victorian social expectation, and he uses the flexibility of the genre to lay down his distaste for all the conventions he deemed as undermining artists.
In the titled tale “The Happy Prince,” Wilde is poignantly rejecting the idea of charity. Above a city rest a decorated statue of the Happy Prince, a once oblivious monarch who is now confronted to wretched conditions of his subjects. When a swallow, who had been left behind by his flock flying to Egypt for the winter, lands near the statue, they form a friendship. The Happy Princes pleads the bird to help him pluck all the jewels from his body, to offer to those in need. Eventually the swallow dies from the cold and the now bleak statue is recycled to made into the likeness of the new Mayor, which implies the cyclical nature of the narrative. The statue tried to make amends for his past, by gifting everything he possessed, but as soon as he no longer has anything to give, he is discarded as garbage and the families he helped are likely to return to a similar predicament by the following winter. In a nutshell, Wilde is shedding light on the selfish facet of charity, as he portrays a charitable figure who is simply doing it to atone for his past, yet ultimately fails at identifying the underlying issue.
In “The Selfish Giant” for instance, Wilde embeds socialist and Christian themes in a seemingly straightforward narrative. As the giant finally finds joy when he opens up his garden to the local children, he transforms his garden into a mirrored Eden. Years pass and one day, the child he had kissed comes back wounded, and is unveiled as an incarnation of Christ who has come back to take the giant to Heaven. The kiss is often interpreted as a picture of a homosexual relationship, however it is more likely to be a broader symbol of love. Compassion is the foundation of Wilde’s socialism, and he does present a story of redemption. Considering his large size, it is possible Wilde identified with the giant, and wrote this particular tale in the hopes that he too, may atone for his sins. Nevertheless, the union between man and Christ can only be achieved through compassion. Wilde will later describe Christ as a “man who abandons society entirely, or of the man who resists society absolutely,” and is therefore a quintessential individualist. He also believed that true individualism could only be achieved in a true socialist society, because it would entail a society where everyone would not be burdened by irrelevant pressures.
Fairytales are inherently morally didactic, often with a religious message. This idea of art having a higher purpose than itself, is one that Wilde does not subscribe to. Grimm, Andersen and Perrault all wrote tales to instruct their audience, often imposing their moral compass onto children and women. Wilde writes with this tradition in mind, only to subvert the expectations. The prose is written in an eloquent style, which overshadows the bleak reality of the stories.
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