Why did the Mayor and the Councilors want statues of themselves?

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Wilde wrote that he wanted his stories to have many meanings and be open to a myriad of interpretations, but one of the central themes in any reading of "The Happy Prince " must be self-sacrifice and egotism. The Prince sacrifices his beauty and the Swallow his life to...

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Wilde wrote that he wanted his stories to have many meanings and be open to a myriad of interpretations, but one of the central themes in any reading of "The Happy Prince" must be self-sacrifice and egotism. The Prince sacrifices his beauty and the Swallow his life to alleviate the suffering of the poor, but most people in the city, including some of those for whom they make the sacrifices, are too wrapped up in themselves to notice. When the Swallow delivers one of the Prince's eyes to a poor playwright, the young man suddenly notices the sapphire:

"I am beginning to be appreciated," he cried; "this is from some great admirer. Now I can finish my play," and he looked quite happy.

It does not occur to him to wonder how the sapphire came into his room, for he is thinking only of himself.

The Mayor and Councillors whose squabbling almost ends the story (until God himself redeems the sacrifice of the Prince and the Swallow) are the ultimate symbols of the egotism that runs through the story. They are not even able to appreciate another viewpoint to the very limited extent of understanding that the word "myself" used by another refers to that person. Their self-absorption is complete, and this places them at the opposite moral pole from the Prince and the Swallow. They want statues of themselves because their own egos are all they ever see in any case.

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