The Nightingale and the Rose

by Oscar Wilde
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What is the message in "The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde?

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"The Nightingale and the Rose " shows us that sometimes it's necessary to make sacrifices for love. But at the same time, it also shows us that such sacrifices are often in vain. Love is a very powerful emotion, yet one that must be controlled, lest it lead to...

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"The Nightingale and the Rose" shows us that sometimes it's necessary to make sacrifices for love. But at the same time, it also shows us that such sacrifices are often in vain. Love is a very powerful emotion, yet one that must be controlled, lest it lead to misery and heartbreak. That's precisely what happens to the student in the story. He's bought in to a highly romanticized notion of love, replete with hearts, flowers, and plaintive sighs. Unfortunately for him, the object of his love—the singularly unworthy object of his love—has a much more cynical view of things. For her, material goods are a more reliable token of esteem than the beauties of nature.

Yet in a sense, the student's been beaten at his own game. The red rose he gives to the professor's daughter isn't really red at all—at least not naturally. It has been artificially stained with the sacrificial blood of the nightingale. The nightingale gave his life in vain just as the student has given his love in vain. But Wilde cautions against a retreat into outright cynicism. We must still believe in love, yes romantic love too, even to the extent of making sacrifices on its behalf. But it must be a real love, a love worth fighting for, and if necessary, dying for. To discern what is true, we must not become, like the nightingale and the student, mere slaves to convention. Instead, we must look within, deep into our hearts. It is there, and only there, that we will behold the meaning of true love.

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In "The Nightingale and the Rose," Wilde argues love is not always a pleasant and idyllic experience. We see this through the experiences of the student who first undergoes great distress when he realizes his garden does not contain a red rose. Even when he finally obtains one, he is rejected by the Professor's daughter, the girl he loves, because she found someone richer and in possession of fine jewels.

In fact, for Wilde, true love often involves sacrifice and loss. This is illustrated through the character of the nightingale, who sacrifices her life in the pursuit of a red rose for the student. In a tragic twist, however, the student does not realize her sacrifice produced the red rose because he cannot understand her song. Moreover, when the young girl rejects him, he turns his back on the idea of love, which further sullies the nightingale's sacrifice.

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