Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” is a classic short story, unique in style, besides conveying a message; It is a story for all countries and all ages.
Recently I had the privilege of reading Oscar Wilde’s Happy Prince’ a classic short story. After finishing the story I had mixed feelings. For the past few days, whatever I have done, wherever I have been, the story has been hovering around in my memory. I have instantaneously become an ardent admirer of Oscar Wilde for the following reasons:
- Oscar Wilde’s ability to hold my rapt attention throughout the story and creating an indelible impression in me.
- His penchant for the narration of the story was unique and classic.
- His ability to infuse several messages in the story, but not openly.
- His sense of humor and satire.
- His ability to eschew the cultural influences of his country and stand out as a classic writer of all times.
- His fine sense of imagination.
and many more. The short story revolves around a golden statue called ‘The Happy Prince’ studded with precious stones in the eyes. Another important character in the short story was a bird namely ‘Swallow’.
The bird ‘Swallow’ was planning to go to Egypt. On the way, it took asylum between the legs of the ‘The Happy Prince’. But Swallow was shocked to see ‘the Happy Prince’s shedding tears. The prince was not happy even though he had precious stones and his body was made of gold.
He was very much concerned about what was happening around him:
1)The sufferings of a writer
2)Sufferings of a poor girl not able to pay her tuition fees and
3 )The sufferings of the poor people who could not afford to eat and live.
The Happy Prince requested and ordered ‘Swallow’ to take his precious stones to help the poor and needy. He also ordered ‘swallow’ to take all the gold from his body to help the suffering poor people. Now ‘The Happy Prince’ was really happy; but having lost all his gold and precious stones, his body was merely made of lead, a less valuable metal.
He had lost his vision also having lost his precious stones from his eyes. Now, the bird ‘Swallow’ took pity on him, gave up her idea of going to Egypt, decided to stay with the ‘Happy Prince’ who had lost his vision. But having exposed to the chilly weather, ‘Swallow’fell ill and she was about to die. Having lost his vision and not knowing her actual condition the ‘Happy Prince’ asked her to go to Egypt. But Swallow replied that she was going to the house of death; after all death was the brother of sleep.
The next day morning, the bird Swallow was lying dead on the ground; ‘the Happy Prince’s a mere statue of lead without his precious stones and looked desolate.
The councilors noted down the condition of the Happy Prince. They decided to replace the Happy Prince with their statue.
But God honored the Happy Prince and Swallow in a befitting manner for their selfless service.
This story narrated in a conversational style provides a fantastic read. The story reveals the author’s genuine concern for the hapless poor people. The story has several messages in it but they are hidden and latent and also question the necessity of having a golden statue studded with precious stones.
It exposes the vested interests or the selfish attitude of the authorities concerned (councilors). It issues an indirect message to the authorities concerned that they should strive hard to mitigate the evils and sufferings of the poor people. ’The Happy Prince’ can be equated with the government. Above all the story points out the inequalities and sufferings of the poor people in society. The story by referring to the Almighty as God avoids any reference to any particular religion and so it belongs to all countries and applies to all ages, which is the finest aspect of the story.
Thus the story besides being innovative in its style and approach conveys several hidden messages too. Therefore, Oscar Wilde clearly shows that literature is not meant for entertainment alone, but it should also reflect the problems of society and offer solutions also, if possible, wherever necessary.