What is the plot of "The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This short story tells the tale of a student who has fallen in love with a girl. She says that he must bring her a red rose or she won't dance with him at an upcoming ball. Unfortunately, the student has many flowers in his garden but not a single one of them is a red rose.

A nightingale overhears the student crying and because she loves him, she immediately begins searching for a red rose. Eventually, she finds a red rose tree, but it will not produce a single flower unless the nightingale sings her song all night and then pierces her heart on one of its thorns. The nightingale is initially reluctant: she does not want to kill herself, but she loves the student so much that she decides that this is a sacrifice worth making.

The nightingale's death produces a red rose and the student is very happy when he sees it in the garden. He takes it to the girl, but she dismisses him because the rose does not match her dress. Furthermore, she is now being courted by the chamberlain's nephew, who has sent her expensive jewels. The student is angry and leaves the ball. In the final scene of the story, he declares love a "silly thing" and returns to his books.

parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A nightingale overhears a young student lament that he only needs a red rose to give to a girl he loves to win her heart. This cannot be done since it is not the season, but the nightingale finally founds roses but white ones. To make the young man's wish come true, she presses her breast against a thorn on the most beautiful white rose she can find and sings to allow a magical spell make the blood go from her heart into the rose. The nightigale manages to transform the white rose into a red one but dies by doing so. As things turn out, the girl in question does not appreciate the rose because another young man has offered her jewels instead (and they are a more expensive present). The student feels rejected but doesn't waste his time mourning his loss, but rather goes back to his books and lessons in philosopy. Nobody even thinks about the nightingale and the fact that she has sacrificed her life.