Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Selfish Giant” conveys the notion that anyone can achieve eternal peace through kindness and love. In the story, a group of children regularly visits a giant’s “lovely garden, with soft green grass” while the giant is away visiting the Cornish ogre. Upon his return, the giant realizes that the children have been using his garden as a playground, and he gets so angry with them that he decides to build a wall around the garden to prevent them from entering. Then something curious happens: while the landscape around the garden goes through its normal cycle of the seasons, the garden remains in an eternal state of winter. The text states,
Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. . . . The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost.
The giant eventually realizes that it was a mistake to build the wall and prevent the children from entering the garden, because when they sneak through a hole in the wall, the giant realizes that the garden is only alive when children play in it:
In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children’s heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing.
The two passages cited above suggest that the garden symbolizes the soul that only thrives when the heart is open and welcoming to others. Significantly, the giant also helps a small, crying boy climb on a tree. That tree too begins to bloom, and the giant is filled with joy. The giant later looks for the boy among the children but he does not see him until many years later, when the boy reappears in the garden. The boy has wounds on his hands and feet, which puzzles the giant. The text states,
"Who hath dared to wound thee?" cried the Giant; "tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him."
"Nay!" answered the child; "but these are the wounds of Love.'"
"Who art thou?" said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child.
And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, "You let me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise."
The passage cited above suggests that the child was in fact Christ. By helping him climb the tree when he was crying, the giant accepted his love and kindness into his life. By doing so, the giant secured his own salvation and eternal peace.