Oscar Wilde the Nightingale and the Rose Summary

Oscar Wilde the Nightingale and the Rose Summary and Analysis

  • April 16, 2022
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Proper summary of the “Nightingale and the Rose” by Oscar Wilde is that not everyone can understand the importance of love in life. 

The story starts when a young student cries near a holm-oak tree because his love demands a red rose from him in case he wants to dance with her. The student fears that there is no red rose in the garden in this autumn season, hence, he may lose his chance of dancing with the lady. On the holm-oak tree, a nightingale listens to the hue and cry of the young boy and witnesses the whole incident, sighting through the leaves of that tree. The boy cries and he talks further about himself that he knows philosophy and wisdom as well as he is well aware about the thinkings and actions of all the wisemen that he has read but all that is not enough to win the heart of his love.

The nightingale that was listening to the boy talks about the importance of love. Although nightingale has been singing songs of love for a long time, she has never witnessed true love. When the nightingale sees the boy, she observes the significance of love in one’s life. It is the nightingale through which the writer describes the physical appearance of the boy; his hair as dark as hyacinth blossom, his lips as red as the rose of his desire. The boy is sorrowful which makes him pale at the time when the nightingale sees him.

The boy imagines himself in the ball party that the Prince has announced tomorrow night. He dreams that he will be able to dance with the girl if and only if he can bring a red rose. In case he cannot find a red rose, he may repent as the girl would not even look at him at the party and his heart may fall apart. The writer shows the preciousness of love that no one can purchase it nor one can sell it. Neither gold nor pearls are enough to purchase love as it is an emotion. A girl as a slave can be purchased but it is not possible to buy her love.  

Problems, in the life of the student, have already been started. His unending imagination is merciless. Oscar Wilde, writer of the story, creates a picture of an upcoming ball party in the mind of the boy in his story “The Nightingale and the Rose”. The boy thinks about the moment when the musicians would sit there in the gallery and play the instruments. He further sketches a daydream that her love would dance in front of him but he would have no other option but to sit and watch her as he is not in possession of a red rose. He fears that soon his imagination would turn into a reality. 

A green lizard, a butterfly and a daisy question the nightingale and ask her why the student is crying, to which the nightingale replies “He is weeping for a red rose”. The lizard laughs cynically and replies “how very ridiculous!”.

She cannot understand the situation that the young boy faces due to his emotions of love but the nightingale can. Thus, she flies and goes to the centre of the garden to get a red rose for the boy. She looks for a rose plant that she finds in a while. She addresses the plant and expresses her desire of purchasing a red rose and in return she would sing a sweet song for the plant; however, the plant replies in negative as it does not have red roses but white. The nightingale looks for another plant and says it the same but the plant has only yellow flowers. The plant sends the nightingale to another plant. It is the plant of red roses but due to heavy snow storm in the winter season he is not able to grow a red rose. 

The nightingale cries and asks for the red rose but she could not find it anywhere in the garden. Oscar Wilde gives a summary of a strong bond between the nightingale and the rose. She (nightingale) shouts if there is any way through which she can get a red rose. The rose plant gives her the most terrible way of getting it. He says that the only way is if she sings a song for a whole night and ultimately sacrifices her life while giving her heart’s pure blood to the plant. Nightingale thinks for a while about the life that she has spent in seeing the beauty of the sun, the green gardens and the moon as well as the fragrances that she smelled. No one wants to give up on life and so does the nightingale but when it comes to love, she prefers it to life and the heart of man to the heart of a bird.

The Nightingale goes to the boy and promises him to bring a red rose that will grow from her blood. She also addresses the boy and says that the boy should remember that love is wealthier than philosophy though she feels that philosophy has importance of its own. Nonetheless, the boy does not understand what the nightingale says to him. He does not even know that the price of a red rose is the life of the nightingale. The nearby Oak tree understands what she says; he knows that she is going to die for a red rose, hence, for one last time he wants to hear her song, which she sings for him. 

The student meanwhile thinks about his love. He is of the view that she is as selfish as the art of an artist. The nightingale completes her song and goes to the rose plant again. She pushes her breast against the thorn and starts singing a song that she continues to sing for the whole night. She pushes more and more her breast to the thorn and finally she dies and the plant quenches its thirst with the blood of the nightingale. In return, the rose-plant grows a beautiful red rose. 

The boy looks out of the window and is shocked to see such a beautiful red rose. He plucks the flower and goes to the professor’s house to see his love. He wants to tell her the good news that he has found a red rose for her. He is happy that he is able to get her company in the ball party; however, in summary words Oscar Wilde shows that the boy does not perceive the sacrifices of the nightingale to get a rose for him. 

At the end of the tale, there is a surprise for the boy. He hands over the girl the red rose but he is astonished that “the girl frowned”. She answers:

“I am afraid it will not go with my dress and, besides, the Chamberlain’s nephew has sent me some real jewels, and everybody knows that jewels cost far more than flowers.”

They boy realises that the red rose that is full of love and sacrifices has no value in the eyes of people who prefer material things. He throws the flower in the street while declaring the girl an ungrateful lady. The girl however defends herself while portraying that jewls have more value as compared to the redes rose and also she praises the bounties that Chamberlain’s nephew has.

The boy at the end concludes that a red rose that the nightingale gives him has nothing to do with love, hence, he makes a summary of his experience and tells the world that being practical is the best thing that one can do, so does Oscar Wilde. He expresses that he does not need love but the knowledge of philosophy in that young age; therefore, he takes a book of philosophy and starts reading it with greater interest.

Analysis of the Summary of The Nightingale and The Rose by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde starts the story in a dramatic manner when nightingale sees a young boy crying to win his girl’s heart. Nightingale is a symbol of love and as John Keats says in Ode to Nightingale that her  song is immortal as the same has been sung since the creation of mankind. It reminds people of their true love; however, the true love, about which the nightingale talks through his song, is not easily accessible; it seems from the summary of The Nightingale and the Rose, which Oscar Wilde wrote many years ago. It was added in his collection of fairy tales titled “The Happy Prince and Other Tales” published in 1888.

The writer sets the plot of the story. In the start of the tale, we witness the theme of superiority of love over knowledge, wisdom and philosophy. The boy has good knowledge of different fields of life but it is not enough to get the attention of his love. Requirement of the girl is a red rose if the boy wants to dance with her at a ball party; a red rose, in this particular situation, overpowers wisdom and philosophy.

Nightingale has always been used as a symbol of love and in his poem “The Nightingale and the Rose”, Oscar Wilde gives a summary of the importance of love in her eyes. No other bird or animal can guess why the boy is crying near the tree except the nightingale as she has been bestowed to feel love and spread awareness among the people about the vitality of true love in life.

It is the nightingale who sacrifices her life for the love of the boy. In the story, the character of the boy is actionless. Meaning thereby that he does nothing except crying to get attention of his love. Oscar Wilde portrays the theme of love and gives a summary of sacrifices that the nightingale made for a rose. He shows that nightingale is a specific bird that can understand the importance of love in one’s life.

On the other hand, he also tells us about the people that do not value love but the ornaments and jewellery. The writer puts the thinking of a bird and the girl in juxtaposition. Love is so precious to a nightingale that she sacrifices her life without giving a second thought whereas the girl is so indulged in materiality of life that she does not even accept the red rose. 

The boy on the opposite side is a neutral character. Though he wants to dance with the girl, he does nothing practical to do that. He prefers knowledge at the end of the story to love of the girl. The writer also shows the selfishness of art in this story. He directly compares the selfishness of the girl with art. It is said that there is selfness in the art as an artist portrays his own perception and experiences though due to universality in human nature it becomes universal. 

In the start of the story, the writer gives an impression that neither gold nor pearls can purchase love as it is a human emotion but the girl proves the opposite. Her love is sold.  Chamberlain’s nephew sends her some real jewels, which is the price of her love. Oscar Wilde also provides a brief summary of worthless mentality of people regarding love in his short story “The Nightingale and the Rose”.

The writer also compares wisdom, knowledge and love in the whole story. Critics are of the opinion that the writer proves superiority of knowledge over emotions of the human psyche. Apparently, it seems so; the nightingale from her blood gets the red rose for the boy but the boy in a moment forgets the love and goes straight to his study room where he reads philosophy.

Besides, the writer personifies trees and birds. Each bird and every tree in this story is a character and has human attributes that the writer assigns to them. Thus, they also have emotions just like humans. Nonetheless, there is a difference between emotions. For instance, the lizard laughs cynically when the boy cries but the nightingale is sorrowful. It is the case with all humans; some understands love but some can never understand its importance in life.

There is also a comparison between the human nature, emotions and practical experiences. The boy becomes practical instead of dragging himself down into an emotional state of mind. Most of the people become addicted to drugs soon after they are scolded by their loved ones; however, the boy is wise enough to be practical while focusing on getting the power of philosophy through knowledge. He takes an intellectual decision at the end of the story, which Oscar  Wilde also wants to impose on the minds of his readers from the summary of his experiences in his poem “The Nightingale and the Rose”.

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