The Happy Prince (from - New Horizons Text Book) by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was a gifted poet, playwright and wit, who was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1854. Wilde is best known for the stories he wrote for children, such as “The Happy Prince” and “The Selfish Giant”. In the present story “The Happy Prince”, he describes the plight of the poor, as contrasted with the selfish attitude of the rich. Wilde begins the story with the brief description of the statue of the Happy Prince which was made of the precious items and the most remarkable thing in the story is by the end all of these precious items were given to the poor. He was glided all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword hilt. The Prince is not really happy in the story why because he sees around all the ugliness and all the misery of his city.
One night there flew over the city a little Swallow. His friends had gone away to Egypt six weeks before, but he had stayed behind, for he was in love with the most beautiful Reed. After spending some considerable time over there the little Swallow has asked the Reed to go away with him but the latter refused to do so as she was attached to her home. Disappointed with this, the Swallow wanted to go back to the Pyramids but was again stayed back in the city because of the Happy Prince. On happy prince’s request, he prolongs his stay and helps the poor with the ruby and the sapphires. He asked the swallow to be his messenger and instructed him to take sapphires and jewels from his statue to give to townspeople suffering from misfortune. The Prince requested the little swallow to stay there for a short time and to extend his support for the sake of the poor.
Throughout the story the writer Oscar Wilde has brought out poverty in a very beautiful manner. The son of the tailor is suffering from fever. He is thirsty and asking for oranges. However, she is a poor tailor. She cannot buy oranges for her son. She is embroidering passionflowers for the Queen’s maids-of-honour. Her poverty is very touching. So the Happy Prince requested the Swallow to bring that poor woman the ruby out of his sword hilt. Soon after this the Prince again mentioned two more things – firstly, about a young writer who was trying to finish a play for the Director of the Theatre, but he is too cold to write any more. There was no fire in the garret, and hunger made him faint. Secondly, the little weeping match who had no shoes or stockings, and her little head was bare. She had let her matches fall in the gutter, and they were all spoiled. By listening to all these problems of the poor people, the little Swallow resolved to help them and hence accepted the requests of the Happy Prince. Whatever the Happy Prince instructed him that was done by the little Swallow. Soon after plucking out the Prince’s two eyes which were made of sapphires he became blind and the little Swallow determined to stay with the Happy Prince forever. All the next day he sat on the Prince’s shoulder, and told him stories of what he had seen in strange lands. But the Prince was not in good mood to listen them and again made a request to the little Swallow to fly over his city and tell him what the bird saw in the entire city. So the Swallow flew over the great city, and saw rich making merry in their beautiful houses, while the beggars were sitting at the gates, the white faces of starving children looking out listlessly at the black streets and two little boys who were so hungry and finally told the Prince what he had seen. Then the Prince asked the Swallow to take it off fine cold which was covered on his body. Leaf after leaf of the fine gold picked off by the Swallow and was given to the poor children.
The day came when all the jewels of his body (Happy Prince) gone. The prince looked ugly and shabby. The swallow never left the place to help the prince. Then the snow came. The little swallow got colder and colder. He knew that his end has come. By taking enough strength to fly up to the Prince’s shoulder the little Swallow bade good bye and fell down dead at his feet. At the moment a curious crack sounded inside the statue of the Happy Prince. It was his heart. The Next morning, the Mayor and Councillors saw condition of the statue of the prince during their visit. A dead bird was under his feet. They decided to remove the statue from that place and put statue of the mayor. They took down the lead from the statue of the prince gave it to workmen to make statue of the mayor. The workmen found that there was a heart inside the statue which did not melt. They decided to throw the heart to the heap of the dust where the little dead swallow was lying.
Prepared by: B. Balaji Reddy, Lecturer in English, JNTUA College of Engineering, Kalikiri, A.P.