The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde

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Who is the narrator of "The Happy Prince" by Oscar Wilde?

The narrator of "The Happy Prince" is not named in the story and is not one of the characters featured into the story. Omniscient, the narrator is aware of the thoughts of swallows and statues and of events taking place in heaven as well as on earth.

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As has been noted elsewhere, “The Happy Prince” is told from a third-person omniscient viewpoint. Given what happens in the story, this is entirely appropriate. Because if there's one thing we learn from reading the story, it's that the characters involved have very different ways of seeing the world.

Whether we're dealing with the mayor and other local worthies, the poor people of the town, or the Happy Prince himself, we have a multiplicity of perspectives of which it's only really possible to make sense by the use of an omniscient, third-person narrator.

Though we never learn the precise identity of the narrator, he does enjoy a God's-eye perspective on things. As well as seeing everything that goes on in the town, he can see inside the souls of statues, people, and animals alike, developing an intimate awareness of their feelings. It's as if the narrator had himself created everything he describes. The comparison with God, though by no means definitive in determining the narrator's identity, is nonetheless suggestive.

Whether the narrator is God or just Godlike, he gives us the broadest possible perspective on the town in which the action takes place and those who live there. It is this perspective that makes the town more recognizable as a place in which real people live, instead of the kind of fairytale world that fables often present to us.

In political terms, the third-person omniscient narrator gives us a chance to see the desperate poverty in which so many people in the town are forced to live, giving Wilde the socialist a chance to say something important about the enormous gulf that existed in his day between the haves and the have nots. Closing this gap and alleviating the appalling plight of the poor requires the kind of comprehensive vision that only a third-person omniscient narrator can have.

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Other Educators have thoroughly noted that the narrator of Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Happy Prince” is an omniscient, third-person narrator. It’s someone who can tell the reader what's going on. The narrator has the godlike power to detail the actions of the Swallow, the Happy Prince, and the politicians. More so, the narrator hears everything the characters say and can accurately present their dialogue.

Yet what’s been identified is the kind of narration, not who the narrator actually is. Perhaps the narrator is an elderly person; maybe they’re a child; perhaps they’re a man or someone who identifies as nonbinary. While it might not be possible to narrow the narrator down to an age or gender, it is reasonable to think of the narrator as a character. Like a character, the narrator has certain biases and beliefs.

Think about how the narrator describes the Happy Prince and the Swallow. Consider how much attention and care he applies to these two characters. Compared to the other characters, the Happy Prince and the Swallow have depth. They have backstories and feelings.

The mayor, the councilman, and the other professionals aren’t allotted much complexity. They come across as wooden and unfeeling. Maybe the difference in the portrayals reveals something about who the narrator is: it’s someone who’s on the side of the Happy Prince and the Swallow.

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The narrator of Oscar Wilde's short story "The Happy Prince" is a true omniscient narrator. Omniscient is a word which means "all-seeing." In the context of a narrative, an omniscient narrator is one who knows everything about everyone within the text. Some third-person narrators are not omniscient, such as in stories which are told from a limited third-person point of view, but in this story, the third-person narrator is aware of the thoughts of the sparrow and of what the sparrow does when it flies away from the town. The narrator is also aware of how the statue of the Happy Prince feels. The narrator is omniscient to the point of being able to understand the feelings of animals and objects.

At the end of the story, we discover that the omniscient narrator is also aware of what is happening not only on earth but also in heaven. Clearly, the narrator has some kind of connection to God, because they are able to describe a conversation between God and one of his angels. God asks the angel to bring him the two most precious things in the city, and the angel brings the heart of the Happy Prince, which would not melt in the furnace, and the body of the little dead bird who had loved him so much.

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The narrator is a third-person omniscient narrator who hovers "over" the action of the story, telling us what happens. An omniscient narrator is all seeing. This narrator is so all seeing that he even knows what happens in heaven.

Much of the story is told from the point of view of the swallow, but the third-person omniscient narrator offers us the background of how people admire the statue of the prince before the swallow appears. The narrator also provides information on what happens to the swallow after the swallow has died.

The third-person narrator is an anchor who can tell readers what they need to know as the story unfolds. The narrator also helps guide readers toward understanding the moral of the story. After the swallow's death and the "death" of the happy prince statue through being melted down, we learn that God values the good deeds those two did for the poor more anything else in the city. We know this because the omniscient narrator informs us of the following, which only he could know:

“Bring me the two most precious things in the city,” said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird.

“You have rightly chosen,” said God, “for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me.”

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