In the short story "The Selfish Giant" by Oscar Wilde, the writer presents the idea that love and kindness could help anyone to achieve eternal peace. Discuss this with evidence from the text.

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Oscar Wilde’s story can be interpreted in general terms as promoting generosity as a path to eternal peace, but it is generally understood as a Christian allegory. The narrator presents the Giant as initially considering the garden more as part of his property than as an aspect of the natural world. His selfishness is shown by his living alone in a castle, and his possessiveness is symbolized by the physical barrier of the wall. He bluntly states, “My own garden is my own garden.”

After the children climb in through a hole, the Giant feels compassion for a tiny boy he sees; this boy is so small that he cannot reach the lowest branch that the Tree extends for him to climb. The narrator tells us that “the Giant's heart melted.” The Giant himself helps the boy: he “took him gently in his hand and put him up into the tree.” The grateful boy embraces and kisses the Giant. After the other children come and this boy disappears, he is still his favorite: “The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him.”

Years later, the frail, elderly Giant watches but can no longer play with the children. Once again he sees this boy, miraculously still a boy and standing under a glorious gold and silver tree with white blossoms. The wounded boy comforts the Giant, telling him the wounds are from Love. He tells the Giant to come to his garden, “which is Paradise.” Wilde does not uses the phrase “eternal peace.” He concludes the story by saying that the Giant, having died, is covered with white blossoms.

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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.

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