The Nightingale and the Rose

by Oscar Wilde

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Is Oscar Wilde critiquing love in "The Nightingale and the Rose"?

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Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (October 16, 1854–November 30, 1900) was a playwright, fiction writer, poet, and essayist known especially for his wit. More importantly, perhaps, he was gay in a period when "sodomy," as it was legally called, was illegal. He actually went to jail after his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas was exposed. His own personal views of love were colored by his experiences as a gay man who was married and had problematic relationships with other men. He also, in his plays, often satirized the hypocrisy of arranged and bourgeois marriages based on social position rather than love.

In "The Nightingale and the Rose," there are actually multiple models of love. The love of the Student seems more a form of infatuation than genuine love. It is not based on genuine connection with the daughter but simply a temporary desire to dance with an attractive person. The daughter appears even more selfish and superficial in that she is only concerned with outward displays of wealth. Against this is a model of true love in the Nightingale, who is brave and self-sacrificing. Yet, readers may also wonder if the Nightingale really made a good choice in sacrificing herself for such an ungrateful and selfish student. The Oak Tree may be the most positive model of love in the story as it loves the Nightingale much as a parent loves a child.

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