The Nightingale and the Rose

by Oscar Wilde

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What is the theme of "The Nightingale and the Rose"?

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The main theme of "The Nightingale and the Rose" is that love often involves sacrifices. The nightingale in the story illustrates this theme by sacrificing her life in order that the student may have a red rose to give to his beloved.

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As most of us realize at some point in our lives, love isn't all wine and roses. In "The Nightingale and the Rose," the hapless, lovelorn student finds that out to his cost. He's deeply in love with a shallow young lady who doesn't feel the same way about him as he feels about her. Unrequited love is always the worst kind of love, the most painful kind, one that has inspired countless songs, laments, and poems down the centuries.

And yet if it's painful for the student, love is fatal for the poor little nightingale who tries to help him out. As the true romantic she is, she puts love above everything else. It is by far the most important thing of all, as she sees it—so important, in fact, that one must be prepared to sacrifice one's life for it.

And that's precisely what the nightingale does, dying a painful death by impaling herself on a white rose thorn while singing sweetly all night. By the following morning, the nightingale is dead, but the white rose has now turned red with the nightingale's blood. The little bird has made the ultimate sacrifice for love. Now, the student has a red rose he can give to his beloved. It's just a shame she doesn't want it, though; or him, for that matter. Sacrifices are often in vain, and this is just another example.

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What is the main theme of "The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde?  

In "The Nightingale and the Rose," Wilde deals with the principal theme of what constitutes true love. To find this out, he compares and contrasts two types of love. In the first, Wilde presents love which involves a great sacrifice: a nightingale gives her life, for example, so that the student (the boy she loves) can have a red rose, an item which he deeply desires.

Conversely, Wilde presents a second type of love between the young girl and the student in which she demands a red rose in return for her love. Later, however, when the student has the rose in his possession, she changes her mind because another suitor has given her some jewels, an item she values more highly.

By portraying the story's characters in this manner, Wilde makes it clear that true love involves great sacrifices and that if love is based on the ownership of wealth or possessions, it is not true at all. 

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What is the main theme of "The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde?  

The story examines the nature of love. The student pines for the girl he loves, but his love has no depth or enduring passion. His feelings change abruptly to anger and disgust the moment he is rebuffed. He did not love another; he loved only himself and how he felt as he imagined holding her in his arms while they danced.

Nightingale, however, loved in a way that was completely unselfish. She exhausted herself seeking the red rose he needed to court his love. When it became obvious to her there was no other way to secure the rose, she willingly suffered great pain and sacrificed her very life for the student's happiness. Her love was deep and true.

The theme then takes an ironic turn. The student does not appreciate or even acknowledge what Nightingale has done for him. Furthermore, he judges her "final performance" in cold, derisive academic terms. There is nothing in him that deserved Nightingale's sacrifice.

Nightingale's view of the student was very romantic. She saw in him a reflection of her own heart that was not in him. It did not occur to her that he was not the "true lover" that she was. His unworthiness does not diminish her act of unselfish faithfulness, but it is clear that Nightingale's life would have been much better spent making music for someone who appreciated the beauty of her song.

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What are the themes of The Nightingale and the Rose?

“The Nightingale and the Rose,” tells a sort of fable where a Nightingale goes on a quest to help a young man in love. There are a few themes that stand out in the text. The first is the sacrificial nature of love.

In the story, the Nightingale hears a student who describes his story of rejection. The professor’s daughter, the girl he seeks to woo, will not dance with him because he could not give her a red rose. The Nightingale cares deeply about what he refers to as a “true lover,” thinking that the student cares for the girl. The Nightingale goes on a hunt looking from tree to tree to find a red rose and eventually is told that the only way to get the rose is through the loss of his life. Seeing the sacrifice as worth it for the young love of the student, the Nightingale sings and is pierced in the heart by a thorn:

So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and louder and louder grew her song, for she sang of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid.

The Nightingale’s sacrifice is what makes the rose, and it is what constitutes a real love. Love and passion hurt, they cost, and they require sacrifice—that is why the theme of love being a sacrifice is central to the story. Wilde weaves the tale of two types of love. The love of the student for the daughter is superficial and conditional, and it falls apart when something better comes along. However, the love of the Nightingale is pure and true—it requires profound art (the singing) and pure sacrifice of body and health for the sake of love. The actual cost of love, therefore, comes out as a theme in the story because the Nightingale has to pay for the love that he hopes will blossom among the young people.

Another theme in the story is the fickle nature of courtship. While the story of the deep sacrifice of the Nightingale is going on, the story of the young student’s courtship also comes to its conclusion. The student takes the rose to the professor’s daughter, but she rejects him because another suitor gave her jewels. The boy tosses the rose into the street where it was destroyed. The rose cost so much, but that cost was ultimately not worth it for the courtship of the young man and woman who ultimately do not know how to appreciate something as ineffable as love. Despite talking about love, the boy doesn’t understand how it costs something beyond tears, and the girl could care less about love—instead favoring the things that suitors give her. Wilde is explaining that people are often cold, and their coldness leads to the fickle nature of most courtship—people don’t appreciate real love, and they waste its sacrifices.

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What are the themes of The Nightingale and the Rose?

"The Nightingale and the Rose" deals with a number of themes. First of all, there is the theme of love, shown through two different scenarios in the story. There is the student's love for the young girl, which is what prompts the search for the rose, and there is the nightingale's love for the student, which leads to her sacrifice. Through these scenarios, Wilde shows the difference between lust and true love. Specifically, that true love comes without conditions and is worthy of any sacrifice. Lust, on the other hand, is fleeting and conditional. In this case, the condition is a red rose.

This story also contains the theme of materialism and greed, shown primarily through the young girl. It is her desire for a red rose which drives the plot of the story and also leads the student to believe that she is in love with him. However, when the Chamberlain's nephew sends her some jewels, she is no longer interested in dancing with the student. Her desire for material possessions, therefore, outweighs her desire for true love.

Through this negative portrayal of materialism and greed, Wilde highlights the heroism of the nightingale. Ultimately, he argues that the pursuit of true love is far superior and noble to that of material possessions.

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What is theme in the novel ''Nightingale and the rose"?

Among many themes that are interconnected in "The Nightingale and the Rose", love is the universal topic. This main theme is explored through other -themes such as self-sacrifice and altruism. The theme of "love" is also analyzed through the essential questions: What is the true nature of it? and Is love real?

It is love that brings the Nightingale to the student, in the first place. Pining for the love of a young woman, the Oxford bachelor bemoans that there are no red roses in his garden, which is what the girl he loved requested in exchange for a dance. 

The question of "What is the true nature of love?" comes into play because the Nightingale hears the student's complaints and feels that she (the Nightingale) can perhaps provide that token that the lovesick student wants. This is also the way self-sacrifice and altruism are included in the theme.

Be happy, cried the Nightingale, be happy; you shall have your red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with my own heart's-blood.

Yet, the Nightingale makes a request: That the student becomes a "true" lover. By this, the bird is bringing forth her own ideas of what "true" love is. However, are these views also shared by the student?

All that I ask of you in return is that you will be a true lover, for Love is wiser than Philosophy, though she is wise, and mightier than Power, though he is mighty. 

Clearly, the bird's own view of love is quite powerful. Powerful enough to stain a white rose with her blood in order to make it red. Still, when the ultimate sacrifice takes place, and the bird dies for it, the rose is ultimately rejected.

The girl thinks the student is beneath her, the student's ego becomes bruised, and he throws away the flower. This token of self-sacrifice and altruism in the name of "true" love is then ran over by a cart and is wasted away. This "true" love that the bird died for never existed in the first place.

Has the bird died in vain, or is there validity to her claim that there is such a thing as "true" love out there, even if it was not the case with the student? Those are the key questions prompted by the central theme of the story, and they are entirely open to interpretation as with much of Wilde's works.

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