The Nightingale and the Rose | | The Nightingale and the Rose – Oscar Wilde Note: please take time to read the actual story before reading this analysis. There can be multiple interpretations for any one text and everyone’s opinions differ. This analysis is meant as a guide only. Links to text: on ZYLite online-literature. com A readable but tragic story at first glance, this particular story has deeper themes which mock people in society for being pretentious.
A large part of the story is set in the garden with its animals and plants, and that sets the background for the ending. It is useful to take note of first impressions when reading a text. In this case the notable first impression is the concept of sacrificing a life for love. The nightingale went through suffering and sacrificed her life for the sake of love – the concept of true love. This is an allegory to the biblical concept of sacrificial love. The allegory is the first hint, further reading of the story reveals that the language used, parallels that used in the bible.
The language is simple and friendly-reading for children, but yet note the nightingale’s description of the lover and love, that she describes his hair and his lips as similar to beautiful plants like roses, and even says “his lips are sweet as honey”. For those who know, this is familiar language because it is derived from Song of Solomon in the bible. The statement which represents the theme of the story “… for Love is wiser than Philosophy, though she is wise, and mightier than Power, though he is mighty. This is another statement that alludes to the language of the bible, this time from the book of Proverbs – that philosophy is referred to as “she”, and power is referred to as “he” (see below for more detailed references). What does Oscar Wilde want to convey from these hints in form of the story? Take a closer look at the statement – the nightingale claims love to be favoured over philosophy and power, but at the end Wilde uses symbolism to contradict this very statement.
The rose represents love, but it was tragically thrown on the road to be rolled over by cart wheels. Sadly it is people in society who value philosophy and power more than they value love. (the student went back to valuing philosophy over love after his attempt failed, and the professor’s daughter valued power in the shape of the Chamberlain’s nephew) The ending of the story becomes a mockery of how society behaved at that time – that society claims to follow biblical doctrine, but only so on the surface.
People in society were hypocritical enough to claim to follow Christian doctrine, but miss the meaning of true love. When practical considerations come in, a lot of people are self-interested and merely use speech to give the appearance that they possess good virtues. One last interesting note.. it is ironic that the student thinks that art has “no sincerity” and is “selfish” – but sadly that was how art was perceived in Victorian times. The field of knowledge was seen as a more worthwhile personal pursuit and it was in society’s self-interest to study that to gain renown.
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