The Nightingale and the Rose

by Oscar Wilde

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What is the character analysis for "The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde?

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In the story, the principal characters are the student and the nightingale.

The student is idealistic, passionate, and determined. However, he is also capricious, selfish, and irresolute. At the beginning of the story, he mourns that he will never be able to dance with the girl he is smitten with. Despite his desire to dance with her, however, he does little to find the red rose he seeks beyond a cursory initial search for the flower.

When the nightingale makes a sacrifice on his behalf, he doesn't recognize or even acknowledge it. Instead, he questions whether the nightingale's song has any value beyond the most obvious. In other words, the nightingale's song is beautiful, but can it convince the girl to dance with him?

Later, when the girl rejects the red rose, the student is furious. He decides that he will no longer believe in love. Instead, he chooses logic, because he believes that it will deliver more intrinsic results. The student conflates the rejection of a moment with the inability of love to contribute to his abiding happiness. In doing so, he reveals his capricious, irresolute nature.

Meanwhile, the nightingale is a loyal, idealistic, and sacrificial character. It relinquishes its life in order to promote love.

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In "The Nightingale and the Rose," the boy is a student who falls in love with the daughter of his professor. In terms of his character, the boy is a defeatist, as shown by his reaction to the quest for the red rose. When he cannot find one in his garden, for example, he quickly loses hope and declares that his "heart will break."

In addition, the boy is also a fickle type of person. When the girl is not impressed by his red rose, for instance, the boy instantly falls out of love with her. He says that she is "very ungrateful" and he decides that love is completely pointless and not worth his time and efforts. Instead, he returns to his studies of "Philosophy" and "Metaphysics" and, presumably, never bothers with love again.

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What are the themes of "The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde?

Oscar Wilde’s story “The Nightingale and the Rose” was published in 1888 in The Happy Prince and Other Tales, a collection of fairy tales for children. In this story, the Student seeks the favor of the professor’s daughter who has promised to dance with him in exchange for a red rose. The Nightingale feels sorry for the student who cannot find a red rose. The bird agrees to sing all night while impaling himself on the thorn of a rose tree in order to give his own blood to create the rose the Student needs. However, the girl rejects the gift of the rose, saying she has received more precious jewels instead. The student throws the rose to the gutter and rejects love in favor of logic and philosophy.

This brief but poignant story explores themes related to sacrifice, love, and materialism. The Nightingale makes the ultimate sacrifice of his own life, believing love a worthy cause. However, this sacrifice is not appreciated. The girl shows materialism in her rejection of the red rose, a symbol of perfect love. The Student shows ungratefulness in his lack of appreciation for the sacrifice made on his behalf. Overall, the story sends a message of protecting oneself and deciding beforehand if a personal sacrifice will be worth the cost.

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What are the themes of "The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde?

Oscar Wilde deals with a number of themes in "The Nightingale and the Rose." Perhaps the most obvious theme is love: it drives the plot as the student searches for a red rose in his garden and prompts the nightingale to sacrifice her life. It is also contrasted against academic subjects, like logic, when the student realizes the young girl does not truly love him:

"What a silly thing Love is," said the Student as he walked away. "It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything."

Materialism is another theme in the story and is best demonstrated through the character of the young girl. At the beginning, her interest in the student is driven by her desire for a red rose. Later, she turns her attention to the jewels offered by the Chamberlain's nephew. By portraying her in this way, Wilde suggests that materialism is an ugly and worthless attribute. To further reinforce this point, Wilde contrasts the girl's materialism against the good-natured and selfless character of the nightingale. 

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