Was the happy prince really happy? Explain.

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At the beginning of the story, the Happy Prince, as a statue, is certainly not happy. His eyes are "filled with tears" because he can see "all the ugliness of [his] city." When he was alive, he was not exposed to the city beyond the walls of his palace, and...

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At the beginning of the story, the Happy Prince, as a statue, is certainly not happy. His eyes are "filled with tears" because he can see "all the ugliness of [his] city." When he was alive, he was not exposed to the city beyond the walls of his palace, and so now, as a statue erected outside of the palace walls, he is seeing the misery and poverty of the city for the first time.

Describing his life before he died and became a statue, the Happy Prince says that "happy indeed I was, if pleasure be happiness." The conditional subordinate clause, "if pleasure be happiness," hints at the idea that the prince's happiness, when he was alive, was only a superficial kind of happiness. Unfortunately, however, this superficial kind of happiness appears to be the only kind that the Happy Prince has ever experienced.

As a statue, the Happy Prince is miserable because he can always see the poverty and misery in the city around him. To the poor and the miserable, he gives the ruby from his sword, the sapphires from his eyes, and the gold leaf from his body. Even these gifts, however, are not enough to rid the city of poverty and misery, and so the Happy Prince remains miserable.

At the end of the story, the Happy Prince's friend the swallow dies at his feet. At this moment the Happy Prince's leaden heart "snap[s] right in two," implying that after the loss of his friend, the Happy Prince's heart could take no more.

At the very end of the story, God appears and promises to resurrect both the swallow and the Happy Prince. The swallow, he says, will "sing for evermore," and both the swallow and the Happy Prince will live with him in his "city of gold." Thus, at the end of the story, Wilde suggests that the Happy Prince may yet be happy after all, with God and the sparrow, in God's eternal "city of gold."

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