The Happy Prince Questions and Answers

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In "The Happy Prince," whose sacrifice is greater, the prince's or the swallow's?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would argue that the swallow's sacrifice is greater. After all, he sacrifices his life in following the Happy Prince's instructions to take gold leaf and precious stones from his statue to give to the poor of the town.

The swallow needs to migrate to warmer climes for the winter; otherwise, he'll die. And unfortunately, that's precisely what happens. Yet at no point was the swallow compelled to perform such selfless actions; the Prince didn't force him to do what he did. But because the swallow has grown to love the Happy Prince he gladly did what was asked of him.

The Happy Prince has also sacrificed something of himself. With all his gold leaf and precious stones gone, he's no longer quite what he once was. Something, some kind of spirit, if you will, appears to have gone out of him. And the swallow's tragic end pretty much finishes him off for good.

The Happy Prince may not have intended for the swallow to sacrifice his life but that, unfortunately, is what has happened. Without his special friend in his life, in fact, the only friend he has, the Happy Prince now has nothing. In that sense, by asking the swallow to fulfill his dearest wishes, he's inadvertently sacrificed his spirit.

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