Oscar Wilde The Nightingale And The Rose Critical Analysis Essay

The main themes of the short story “The Nightingale and the Rose” by Oscar Wilde are sacrifice, love of love and materialism. The narrative can also be interpreted as a satire to Romanticism, as its end shows a painful morale: love involves risks and sacrifices and does not always triumph.


The theme of sacrifice is solely explored in the short story through the character of the Nightingale. The bird illustrates willpower and the capacity of self-sacrifice in the name of an idea and for the sake of others. When she hears the Student lamenting his bad faith because he is unable to be with the girl he loves because he does not have a red rose, the Nightingale immediately relates to him and understands his sorrow.

First, she is willing to sacrifice her time and give away her songs to get the rose.


Love of love

The theme of love of love is also explored in the short story through the Nightingale. Although the bird sets off to help a Student in love (a practical example of love), the bird seems also very inspired by the idea of love itself, which the Nightingale describes in almost absolute terms: 

Surely Love is a wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds, and dearer than fine opals. Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it, nor is it set forth in the market-place. It may not be...



Materialism is explored in the short story through the human characters: the Student, the Professor’s daughter, and the Chamberlain’s nephew. All these characters are materialistic in some sense.

The Student evokes the rational side of materialism as he needs to see a practical end in all endeavours. He needs his love to manifest at the practical level...


The nightingale and the rose (summary)

Oscar Wilde “The Nightingale and the Rose”, is a fairy tale that incorporates modern issues affecting young people. Oscar presents love using the basic structure of a fairy tale story to communicate the different perceptions of love among young people. The story’s main theme is about sacrifice and love. Oscar presents these two main ideas using three characters to inform the reader the different types of love; these include true love and a crush. Oscar aimed at reflecting the cruelty of the modern world, showing how people can misinterpret love.

The Nightingale and the Rose story begin with a young boy crying because he could not find roses to give to the girl   he thought he had fallen in love with. The boy wanted to dance with the professor’s daughter at the ball, he wanted to please the girl by giving her roses as a sign of appreciation. The boy could not find roses anywhere in the garden. When a nightingale hears about the boy’s dilemma, he knew he had to do something to save this true love. The Nightingale decided to help the boy to look for roses to help him fulfill his dreams. The Nightingale looked for roses, but none was available. The last tree informed the nightingale that he knew of a way to find a red rose. However, it was an awful process. The nightingale still insisted he wanted to know. The Nightingale was willing to make sacrifices to save what he considered true love.

The theme of sacrifice begins when the Nightingale decides to give up his life because it viewed death as a little price to pay for the love that was sincere. His actions proved how some people are willing to make sacrifices for others to be happy.  The red rose became a significant symbol in the story because it  represented  sacrifice.

Initially, many readers would think that the boy’s love for the professor’s daughter is sincere, in the end; we discovered that he never really loved her, it was just a crush. When the professor’s daughter refuses to take the red rose, the boy throws away the roses he had searched for into the street. He did not attempt to convince the girls to go with him to the ball; the boy simply surrendered without a fight. After devoting his energies to please the girl, the girl rejected the boy. The story reveals how the professor’s daughter does not understand the true meaning of love because she loved material things. The girl liked a person who could afford to give her jewels, that is why she refused to accept the rose.

Throughout the entire story, it is only the Nightingale who understood the true meaning of love.  The boy was preoccupied with one girl and when he was rejected, he viewed love as something not worth spending much time on.  In reality, the only one who knew what true love is the Nightingale. The Nightingale sympathized with the boy and went out to sacrifice his life just to save the boys’ love. In the end, the boy discarded the rose. He would not have acted that way if he knew of the sacrifice, but he cannot see the true meaning of a rose. Instead, the boy was fixated on one girl who did not understand the true meaning of a rose. Naturally, roses represent natural beauty, unlike the jewels. The Nightingale and the Rose is an emotional tale of two people who view love from different viewpoints. The story presents how people are willing to make sacrifices to make others happy, but not everyone would appreciate these sacrifices.

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