A Commentary on Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince”

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 ‘The 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:-

  1. Oscar Wilde’s ability to hold my rapt attention throughout the story and creating an indelible impression in me.
  2. His penchant for narration of the story that was unique and classic.
  3. His ability to infuse a number of messages in the story, but not openly.
  4. His sense of humor and satire.
  5. His ability to eschew from the cultural influences of his country and stand out as a classic writer of all times.
  6. 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’was 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 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’was 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 own 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 a number of messages in it but they are hidden and latent and also questions 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 the society. The story by referring the Almighty as God clearly 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 a number of hidden messages too.Therefore,Oscar Wilde clearly shows that the literature is not meant for entertainment alone, but it should also reflect the problems of the society and offer solutions also, if possible, wherever necessary.

To conclude, for any person who aspire to become a short story writer, ‘The Happy Prince’ is a must read.          

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  1. vyasamoorthy
    Posted May 25, 2009 at 4:20 am

    Your review is very tempting. I shall this title to my list. Thanks

  2. Posted May 26, 2009 at 5:53 am


  3. Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:36 am

    Thank you for your encouraging comment.

  4. Posted June 1, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    I read this story when I was in 10th standard. It is really one of the masterpieces of Wilde. Your article holds up this view point. Thanks.

  5. Posted June 1, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    The story has in fact created a mixed feeling in me.You can either scoop down to the level of an enthusiastic student or become a statesman with lofty ideals.Thank you for your encouraging comments.

  6. Posted February 9, 2010 at 10:48 am

    It was good but u would ‘ve also include the point were happy prince’s leaden heart ‘ll get broken when he happen to see his dear friend swallow who was dead at his feet. other things are really good.

  7. numb
    Posted June 5, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Very nice review thanks …….

  8. mohammed
    Posted December 29, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    it is really good and it can be use to me for my research paper
    my best

  9. Silvia Serrano. English Secondary teacher in Benidorm (Spain)
    Posted February 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    I have chosen The Happy Prince as a compulsory reading for my students in 1st CSE who are 12. I think is the best decision I have made this course because this tale shows different points of view of a same reality: a Victorian London dying in pain, where nobody is happy lies under the high statue of the Happy prince who sees the city’s pain and prefers to dissapear but help the poor.
    The Wildean irony is very sutile, when he says at the end that an ugly statue it’s no useful. He shows the importance of appearance in the Victorian society, and how the poor suffered in that unfair society.
    Children will learn that sharing is important and that it is better to be good than to seem good.

  10. Posted March 6, 2011 at 1:40 am

    your review of the story “the happy prince” is great but i think if would mentions the hidden issues which you kept repeating it would give the reader a deep insight. all the same you did a grat job .
    keep it up.

  11. fatima
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    am really admired this story it’s ffor first time i analyse short story

  12. Posted April 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    am really admired this story it\’s ffor first time i analyse short story

  13. Posted April 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    am really admired this story it\\\’s ffor first time i analyse short story

  14. emily em
    Posted August 29, 2011 at 3:24 am

    this really helped me, cause i had a question that i didnt understand so i used this passage and i passed and got a very high mark and toped the class!

  15. munaza
    Posted September 10, 2011 at 8:30 am

    m a student of english literature in pakistan. its very heart touching story. a thought provoking piece of writing

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