The Nightingale and the Rose

by Oscar Wilde

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What is the symbolic meaning of the absence of a red rose in the student's garden in "The Nightingale and the Rose"?

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In Oscar Wilde's story, the Student laments that there are no red roses in his garden. He insists that he cannot court a woman successfully without one. The Student desperately wants a beautiful lady to dance with him until dawn at the Prince's ball.

In the story, we learn that the Nightingale sacrifices her own life in order to grow a beautiful red rose for the love-sick Student. Her lifeblood ebbs away as the thorn pierces her heart. However, when the Student presents the rose to his favored lady, she scorns his gift. She rudely tells him that the rose will not match the color of her dress. Furthermore, she relates that the Chamberlain's nephew has already sent her "real jewels." She has no real use for a flower. To the beautiful girl, the rose (although obtained at great cost) pales in comparison to sparkling gems.

As for the Student, he becomes angry after hearing the girl's words. He immediately throws the rose away, and it falls into the gutter. His reaction demonstrates his shallow view of love. He has mistaken infatuation for true love. The beautiful girl makes the same mistake. She thinks that the Chamberlain's nephew will be a better catch for her, so she rejects the Student.

Her behavior leads the Student to conclude that love is "silly," "quite unpractical," and "not half as useful as Logic." However, the truth is that the Student does not really comprehend the meaning of true love. This is why there are no red roses in his garden. The red rose is a symbol of sacrificial love, of which the Student has neither the comprehension nor the character to grasp.

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In the story The Nightingale, the red rose symbolizes love. The red rose is considered the most beautiful and the most desired flower in the world, just like love is so beautiful and so desired.

The story illustrates the Student as materialistic and selfish. The Student wants the girl in the story to love him so badly and is broken-hearted when she turns down his red rose when he finally discovers one growing in his garden. However, the Student does not realize that HE is actually selfish and ungrateful for what the Nightingale did for him. The Nightingale believed in love so deeply that she died for love by creating the red rose for the Student.

Just like a perfect red rose seems impossible for the Student to find growing in his garden, true love can also be hard to find. True love is special, unique, and not found between any two people. True love has to be cherished and nurtured.

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