Plot Summary, Characters and action, Theme, Symbolism, and Moral of ‘The Happy Prince’
High over the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. It was an amazing statue and was extremely respected indeed. The statue of Happy Prince looked simply like an angel. One night there flew over the city a little swallow. His companions had left to Egypt a month and a half before however, he had remained behind, for he has an adoration for a most excellent reed. Throughout the day it flew and during the evening time, he arrived at the city.
There he saw a statue on a tall saw. He landed just between the feet of the Happy Prince. As he was going to sleep a huge drop of water fell on him. He gazed upward and saw the eyes of the Happy Prince filled with tears. The Happy Prince told the swallow that he didn’t have an inkling what tears were, for he lived in the royal palace. So he lived and passed on and the people set him at the tall column wherefrom can see all the misery and ugliness of the city. Swallow promised to live on with Happy Prince. Little swallow did persistently whatever Happy Prince directed.
She helped the poor mother with ruby from the top of Happy Prince’s sword. Then helped the young fellow completing his play for the theatre with the valuable sapphire, that was, Happy Princ’s eye and after this, he provided the little match girl with another sapphire from his second eye. The little swallow could not perform such work anymore as Happy Prince has turned absolutely blind. But the Prince insisted him to continue the job. The Prince told the little swallow please help the hungry and poor people. He said, “I am secured with gold; you should take it off leaf by leaf and offer it to the needy people.” The little swallow removed the gold leaf by leaf, till the prince looked very dull and grey.
Time passed by, and the swallow realized he was going to die. Swallow says goodbye to the Happy Prince and died at his feet. The heart of Happy Prince made out of lead split. God sent his blessed messenger to acquire the two most valuable things in the city. Angel carried them to Heaven.
The characters and actions of ‘The Happy Prince’
“The Happy Prince” is a fairy tale Oscar Wilde wrote for two sons but its humane value goes far beyond the fairy world of children. The story develops sympathy for the poor and makes people look back on their attitude towards people in and around them. All the good actions of the Happy Prince are so worthy and it deserves respect and admiration. The characters set around Happy Prince are the little Swallow, the poor Mother, the Little Match Girl, and the Playwright. The Happy Prince’s actions of helping the poor indeed, are noteworthy. Without the sword hilt, the seamstress’s sun may die a fever. His immediate and valuable gift of sapphire to the playwright to buy food and firewood and escape from hunger shows Happy Prince’s deep sympathy towards the playwright.
Happy Prince prevents the poor little Match Girl from being beaten by his father as she has dropped all the matches in the dirty street and has spoiled them. With the help of the remaining sapphire from his body, Happy Prince was not hesitant to strip himself off all the gold leaves to save the children from hunger and cold.
Symbolism used in the short story:
In literature, symbolism is that figure of speech where an object, person, or situation has another meaning other than its literal meaning. Writers use symbols to signify ideas and qualities in an indirect manner. So, the deep hidden meaning that leads readers to understand the message conveyed in a story is what relates to symbolism.
The Happy Prince is a story that pictures the deeds of two understanding and loving beings, though they are not human; the Happy Prince and the little swallow. The swallow is a symbol of loyalty and friendship as he remains with the prince and helps him fulfill his wishes. The lead heart of the prince is the symbol of love and immortality as it did not melt and was placed with the dead swallow. The Mayor and his council members are a symbol of authority and repression. The old woman, a young playwright and the girl represent the poor section of society who suffer and strive hard to earn a living.
“The Happy Prince” has a fairy tale mode of expression; fantasy. It is basically a reality that is woven creatively within fiction. It was first published in the 1888 anthology ‘The Happy Prince and other Tales’ written by Oscar Wilde.
The story carries various themes such as:
a. Love: The compassion of the statue for other people and the bird’s swallow depicts great sensitive feelings. The prince gives away everything to help people and the swallow and prince share a fantastic love bond.
b. Sacrifice: While the prince gives away his ruby, eyes and gold leaves, the little swallow sacrifices his life to serve humanity. The bird did not reach Egypt to meet its companions, instead stayed with the prince in harsh cold weather and at last died at the feet of the statue.
c. Appearances can be deceptive: This story has a great lesson to teach as it portrays a statue coated in gold but basically it is made up of lead. The appearance was grand but when all gold coating came off, the statue looked ugly. Another thing associated with it is that the prince was happy when he was alive and enjoyed his wealth but the time he saw human beings suffering, he was saddened by the poverty and pain around him.
d. Exploitation and hypocrisy of the ruling class of society: This theme is vibrant in the story as the Mayor and his members of office judged the statue and chose to pull it down as they thought it looked ugly. Also, the happy prince lived in his palace not knowing the misery of human beings as he never bothered to look beyond the huge walls of his palace. The rich live lavishly and the poor are not treated well.
e.True Friendship: The prince in the story shares a great bond of friendship and respect with the little swallow. Whatever the prince commands, the swallow follows the orders religiously. The friendship they had was so true and loyal that they were put in heaven together.
Moral Value Of The Happy Prince
‘The Happy Prince’ – the story has a fine moral. Good rewards those who feel for the poor and make sacrifices to remove miseries and sufferings of other people. The Prince and the Little Swallow who helps him are rewarded in Heaven for their kind deed on earth.
Here, one finds men and women who love those who robe them or beat them, as though the soul were intoxicated by its discovery of human nature, or found even a secret delight in the shattering of the image of his desire. It is as though it cried, “I would be possessed by” or “I would possess that which is humane: what do I care if it is good or bad?”
There is no “disillusionment”, for they have found that which they have sought, but that which they have sought and found is a fragment.