The Nightingale and the Rose

by Oscar Wilde

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Discuss love's representation through the nightingale, student, and girl in "The Nightingale and the Rose".

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Wilde portrays the student and young girl's love as shallow and fleeting. It is solely based on the procurement of a red rose in return for an evening of dancing. Even when the student gets a rose, the young girl quickly loses interest in him, preferring the material possessions of another suitor:

"I am afraid it will not go with my dress," she answered; "and, besides, the Chamberlain's nephew has sent me some real jewels, and everybody knows that jewels cost far more than flowers."

The love expressed by the nightingale towards the student, in contrast, is genuine and has stood the test of time. The nightingale says of the student,

Night after night have I sung of him, though I knew him not: night after night have I told his story to the stars.

The nightingale is prepared to sacrifice her life for the student's red rose, which demonstrates the strength of her feeling. She admits to loving life ("Life is very dear to all"), but she believes it is a worthwhile sacrifice. In a tragic twist, however, the student never appreciates what she has done for him because he cannot understand her song. 

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