The Nightingale and the Rose Questions and Answers
by Oscar Wilde

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What are the themes of The Nightingale and the Rose?

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The Nightingale and the Rose,” tells a sort of fable where a Nightingale goes on a quest to help a young man in love. There are a few themes that stand out in the text. The first is the sacrificial nature of love.

In the story, the Nightingale hears a student who describes his story of rejection. The professor’s daughter, the girl he seeks to woo, will not dance with him because he could not give her a red rose. The Nightingale cares deeply about what he refers to as a “true lover,” thinking that the student cares for the girl. The Nightingale goes on a hunt looking from tree to tree to find a red rose and eventually is told that the only way to get the rose is through the loss of his life. Seeing the sacrifice as worth it for the young love of the student, the Nightingale sings and is pierced in the heart by a thorn:

So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and louder and louder grew her song, for she sang of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid.

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