In the story “The Nightingale and the Rose,” author Oscar Wilde explores numerous kinds of love. The Student’s plight of unrequited love for an ungrateful girl seems to be the story’s central concern, but later the animals are revealed as equally involved in romantic pursuits. Wilde draws a sharp contrast between the depth of the bird’s affection for the Student and the callous disregard that the girl shows for his gift. The Nightingale is so committed to helping the Student that she sacrifices her own life. Knowing that the youth wants to present a red rose to the girl, the bird uses her own blood to dye a white rose red.
The youth is both smitten by the girl and captivated by romantic ideals of love. When she demands that he bring her a red rose, he believes that acquiring this item and presenting it to her will earn him her love. As he pines away in the garden, the animals take pity on him. The Nightingale is portrayed as being as romantic as the youth is. Observing that “Love is … more precious than emeralds,” she decides to help him resolve his plight. There are roses available, but they are all white. Taking the advice of the Tree, the bird creates the red rose as she sings by moonlight. Pressing her breast against thorns brings forth the blood, which she uses to stain a white rose. The bird pays the price of death, but the youth continues to pursue the girl even after she rejects his gift.