May 25, 2018
“The Nightingale and the Rose”: An Analysis of Theme
“‘Ungrateful!’ said the girl. ‘I tell you what, you are very rude; and, after all, who are you? Only a Student. Why, I don’t believe you have even got silver buckles to your shoes as the Chamberlain’s nephew has’; and she got up from her chair and went into the house”(Wilde 4). This is an important passage from Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale “The Nightingale and the Rose” because it deals with the theme of the story. The story is mainly about a nightingale sacrifices her life to create a red rose for helping a student dance with a professor’s daughter, but eventually the girl rejects the student because she prefers jewels worth more than the red rose, so the red rose becomes useless, and the student no longer believes in love. Wilde satirizes the Victorian era of the 19th century by writing this story. Victorian era was a period of the rapid change in England. At that time, the society emphasized philosophy, reason, and scientific methods. Meanwhile, the development of the industrial revolution transformed societal attitudes toward wealth and consumption, so the whole society was materialistic. Wilde’s “The Nightingale and the Rose” is a fable that satirizes the materialism of the Victorian era with its characters and symbols.
In the story, Wilde displays and satirizes the materialist view of things during the 19th century by using symbol. At first, the student weeps because he lacks a red rose so he can not dance with the professor’s daughter. At this time, the red rose represents the student’s love for the girl. Later, the Nightingale brings the red rose to the student by sacrificing her life. The nightingale further underscores the idea that the red rose is an expression of true love. In the end, however, neither the student nor the girl is able to appreciate the red rose’s symbolic significance. When the student brings the girl the red rose, the girl dismisses anything romantic, saying, “‘I am afraid it will not go with my dress…and, besides, the Chamberlain’s nephew has sent me some real jewels, and everybody knows that jewels cost far more than flowers'” (Wilde 4). Even worse, after hearing what the girl has said, the student carelessly tosses the red rose into the road, “where it fell into the gutter, and a cart-wheel went over it” (Wilde 4). The behavior of the student and the girl shows that they have never really seen the red rose as a symbol of love, but rather as a kind of currency to buy someone’s feelings. Also, they do not understand the truth that the story behind the red rose “is more compelling than any story that might come from the jewels” (The sitting Bee). Hence, by showing two materialist views on the red rose, Wilde pointedly ridiculed the materialism of the Victorian era.
McManus, Dermot. "The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 24 Jun. 2017. Web. 17 March 2018.
“The Nightingale and the Rose.” eastoftheweb.com. East of the Web and contributors. 2017. Web. 13 May. 2018.