The Nightingale and the Rose

by Oscar Wilde

Start Free Trial

What is a character analysis for "The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the story, the principal characters are the student and the nightingale.

The student is idealistic, passionate, and determined. However, he is also capricious, selfish, and irresolute. At the beginning of the story, he mourns that he will never be able to dance with the girl he is smitten with. Despite his desire to dance with her, however, he does little to find the red rose he seeks beyond a cursory initial search for the flower.

When the nightingale makes a sacrifice on his behalf, he doesn't recognize or even acknowledge it. Instead, he questions whether the nightingale's song has any value beyond the most obvious. In other words, the nightingale's song is beautiful, but can it convince the girl to dance with him?

Later, when the girl rejects the red rose, the student is furious. He decides that he will no longer believe in love. Instead, he chooses logic, because he believes that it will deliver more intrinsic results. The student conflates the rejection of a moment with the inability of love to contribute to his abiding happiness. In doing so, he reveals his capricious, irresolute nature.

Meanwhile, the nightingale is a loyal, idealistic, and sacrificial character. It relinquishes its life in order to promote love.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "The Nightingale and the Rose," the boy is a student who falls in love with the daughter of his professor. In terms of his character, the boy is a defeatist, as shown by his reaction to the quest for the red rose. When he cannot find one in his garden, for example, he quickly loses hope and declares that his "heart will break."

In addition, the boy is also a fickle type of person. When the girl is not impressed by his red rose, for instance, the boy instantly falls out of love with her. He says that she is "very ungrateful" and he decides that love is completely pointless and not worth his time and efforts. Instead, he returns to his studies of "Philosophy" and "Metaphysics" and, presumably, never bothers with love again.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team