In Oscar Wilde's "The Nightingale and the Rose", what did the nightingale do to help the student?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In Oscar Wilde's short story "The Nightingale and the Rose" a student was sad because his intended object of affection, a young woman of a higher status than his own, said that the only way that she would dance with the young man at the Prince's Ball the next night was if he (the student) presented her with a red rose. 

There were no red roses in the garden and, as he lamented, a nightingale heard his cries thinking that they were those of a person who was truly, madly in love.  

Therefore, the nightingale went on in search of a red rose for the student. However, none of the rose bushes had any red roses. The nightingale thought that, in the name of true love,she will do the ultimate sacrifice. 

If you want a red rose,' said the (rose) Tree, 'you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart's-blood. You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine.

Although the nightingale knows that death is a huge price to pay for the rose, she abided by her ethos of love above all. Even though life is good, the nightingale rationalized, the preservation of love is above everything else.

Yet Love is better than Life, and what is the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man?

Therefore, she did exactly what the rosetree told her to do and, as expected, the rose became red. 

Keep in mind that this story is permeated with irony. The red rose is found by the student, he presents it to the girl, and yet, she still rejects him. He then tosses the flower into a gutter, and a cart runs over it. It was all worthless.

"Nightingale" is one of those Wildean stories that begs the question of where are we to draw the line between what is real and what merely assumed to be real; on whether what we perceive to be real actually is, merely because we feel that it is. There is no satisfactory ending to the story and there is no redemption nor victory in the end. 

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