Review: The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde | Part 2 – Short Stories

Image resultThe Complete Works of Oscar Wilde
Genres: Poetry, Essays, Classics, Humour, Historical

Oscar Wilde was an Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist, poet, and critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of the Victorian Era.

In his lifetime he wrote nine plays, one novel, and numerous poems, short stories, and essays.

Wilde was a proponent of the Aesthetic movement, which emphasized aesthetic values more than moral or social themes. This doctrine is most clearly summarized in the phrase ‘art for art’s sake’.

Besides literary accomplishments, he is also famous, or perhaps infamous, for his wit, flamboyance, and affairs with men. He was tried and imprisoned for his homosexual relationship (then considered a crime) with the son of an aristocrat.

The Sphinx without a Secret3

Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood.

This is a story of a gentleman who falls for a beautiful widow surrounded by some kind of mystery, who found pleasure in trying to look and act mysterious, even if she did not have much to hide. The main character in this short story falls in love with the “mysterious” woman and his attempt to understand the actions of the woman he loves leads to their break-up and, eventually, her death. He finds out the truth eventually, but is it the truth?

This story perfectly highlights why trust is important in a functional relationship. At the end of the day both, the woman and her lover are to blame for the occurrences which followed. The woman should have been more open about her hobby while her lover should have just trusted her.

Lady Alroy was simply a woman with a mania for mystery. She took those rooms for the pleasure of going there with her veil down, and imagining she was a heroine. She had a passion for secrecy, but she herself was merely a Sphinx without a secret

The Model Millionaire3

Unless one is wealthy there is no use in being a charming fellow. Romance is the privilege of the rich, not the profession of the unemployed.

This work was first published in the newspaper The World in 1887. Then, it was featured as part of the anthology Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories. A handsome, charming, but financially struggling young man falls in love, but her father wants 10,000 Pounds.

This story is merely a few pages long but was quite intense. His masterful prose, combined with silly cynical remarks on social injustice, is simply astonishing. Generosity and Kindness always pay off in the end. This is the message we, as reader, have to take home. It’s a simple story, full of wisdom, definitely worth a read.

Ultimately he became nothing, a delightful, ineffectual young man with a perfect profile and no profession.

The Happy Prince4

High above the kingdom, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was gilded 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.

A Swallow delays his migration to help the statue of the Happy Prince correct some wrongs that were overlooked when he was alive. This is a simple fairy-tale about sacrifice, selflessness and the responsibility of rulers to care for their subjects — but also about the ways in which good deeds can go unappreciated, and about the blindness which charitable people can exhibit in their desperate quest to serve the needy.

This story follows the friendship between the Happy Prince and a Swallow. The Happy Prince as a boy lived in complete luxury and happiness, unaware of the suffering outside his palace walls. The swallow by chance meets the prince after deciding not to migrate yet, because of his love of a reed. Upon meeting the bird the Prince tells the Swallow his story and of his sorrow for the suffering he now sees in his city.

Wilde really attacks social mores throughout this short story. The hypocrisy of the rich, the crudity of self worship as well as a comment on the poverty stricken working class provides the backbone for this story that ostensibly is one of sacrifice.

Whatever I read by Oscar Wilde I really like. The pattern in Wilde’s literature is so beautiful. This one is no different. Similar to “The nightingale and the rose” this one is about great sacrifices for people in need, sacrifices that go unnoticed by the shallow and rich people – which could really make a big difference.

He passed by the cathedral tower, where the white marble angels were sculptured. He passed by the Palace and heard the sound of dancing.

The Nightingale & The Rose3

What a silly thing Love is. It is not as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything, and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true. In fact, it is quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.

The Nightingale and the Rose is an allegory of selflessness and selfishness often claimed as Wilde’s own agony and battle to find a place for his own feelings in this society. This is a heartbreaking story about the nature of love and sacrifice.

At the beginning of the story, we are given the impression that the love between the student and the girl is a true love. Later, we are struck with the truth. Their love turns out to be a shallow one based on materialistic happiness. At the end the student gives up on his love because it was not true in the first place.

The nightingale’s sacrificial nature is much reflective of Wilde himself during his end years when he sacrificed his freedom for the love of his male lover. There are people, who sacrifice their life and suffer to help someone, but at the end they aren’t returned with the same emotional intensity; possible, their actions were never even comprehended.

Wilde is portraying people’s idea of love as extremely shallow, while the nightingale serves as the only one with a true heart.

“Death is a great price to pay for a red rose,” cried the Nightingale, “and Life is very dear to all …..Yet Love is better than Life, and what is the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man?”

The Selfish Giant3

“My own garden is my own garden,” said the Giant; “any one can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.” So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice board.

It’s a lovely fairy tale and if the ending had been just slightly tweaked I would have liked it much better. But, my beliefs are, as usual, in the minority, and I assume most others’ feelings wouldn’t match mine. But parents who know nothing of this tale should know that death is a part of this story. I loved the message about sharing and reaping the benefits of doing that, and of giving to and being caring about others.

The story is about a Selfish Giant who owns a home with a beautiful garden. Upon returning to his home he discovers the local children playing in his garden, the sun shining and birds chirping. The Giant was enraged that the children had been playing in his garden, so he chased them all away and built a huge wall with a sign saying ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’.

He saw the most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees.

The Devoted Friend3

Sometimes, indeed, did neighbours thought it strange that the rich Miller never gave little Hans anything in return, though he had a hundred sacks of flour stored away in the mill, and six milch cows, and a large flock of woolly sheep; but Hans never troubled his head about these things, and nothing gave him greater pleasure than to listen to all the wonderful things the Miller used to say about the unselfishness of true friendship.

The theme of unrequited friendship — manipulation or abuse justified by “love” and even religious ideals — seems important to be exposed to. This story set in a fairy-tale setting focuses on two best friends; Little Hans the gardener, and Hugh the Miller. It’s about ‘devoted friendship’ and what it means to people. It’s beautifully written and is a short, simple story, yet it holds such a heavy meaning. It reflects on how much blinded by our own pride we can be, and the wrong values we impose on our children, and the true value of innocence in this materialistic world

The miller uses guilt and other methods to manipulate Hans, who in the end sacrifices everything. This is a good moral story for children, Wilde uses good detail to explain the characters and sets up many conflicts in the tale.

But somehow he was never able to look after his flowers at all, for his friend the Miller was always coming round and sending him off on long errands, or getting him to help at the mill.

The Remarkable Rocket2

“I am made for public life,” said the Rocket, “and so are relations, even the humblest of them,

It tells us about this narcissistic  Rocket/Firecracker and not realising how selfish he was. He thought a great deal of himself and disregarded everything else for he was ‘superior’ in nature compared to others. Things repeatedly go wrong, but he twist every negative word and even in a way to tickle his vanity.

Wilde was as selfish and vain as they came, so I suppose, you could say the Remarkable Rocket gives us a little glimpse at Oscar.

“That is a very selfish reason,” said the rocket angrily. “What right have you to be happy? You should be thinking about others. In fact, you should be thinking about me. I am always thinking about myself, and I expect everybody else to do the same. This is what I call sympathy”

The Young King4

The lad–for he was only a lad, being but sixteen years of age–was not sorry at their departure, and had flung himself back with a deep sigh of relief on the soft cushions of his embroidered couch, lying there, wild-eyed and open-mouthed, like a brown woodland Faun, or some young animal of the forest newly snared by the hunters.

The young king narrates the story of a young boy who is heir to the throne. He was sent away from home and raised by poor occupants of the kingdom. His mother who was a princess was murdered for falling in love with a man who was poor and had no honourable name or kingdom.

When morning dawns he refuses to put on his robe and crown and is blessed by the Gods. He is criticized and laughed at for his refusal but he does what he feels is right. I liked the three dreams that the king had and I think this story is not necessarily just for kids, everyone can enjoy reading it. Oscar Wilde weaves a web of allusions. A king who does not want a golden robe or pearls of white, is accepted not even by his subjects.

And the young king came down from the high alter, and passed home through the midst of the people. But no man dared look upon his face, for it was like the face of an angel.

The Birthday of the Infanta3

Although she was a real Princess and the Infanta of Spain, she had only one birthday every year, just like the children of poor people.

Set in Spain’s past, the King’s daughter, an only child, is celebrating her 12th birthday. For this one day each year, children below royal rank are invited to attend, to play with the Princess and watch the delightful array of entertainments arranged for the Infanta.

It’s a nice story about how every individual judges another through the eyes of beauty. If something is beautiful we are drawn to it. If it isn’t we sneer at it and create a mockery out of it. Its a tale of childhood innocence and how a dwarf comes to realize he is an object of fun and endless teasing.

But somehow the birds liked him. They had seen him often in the forest, dancing about like an elf after the eddying leaves or crouched up in the hollow of some old oak-tree, sharing his nuts with the squirrels

The Fisherman & His Soul3

For of a truth, pain is the Lord of this world, nor is there anyone who escapes from its net

The fisherman falls in love with a mermaid, but is unable to marry her because he cannot live underwater with her so long as he has his soul. He investigates a variety of different ways to get rid of his soul, and when he finally is able to do so, the soul comes back periodically to tell him of its adventures, trying to tempt the fisherman into reuniting with it. Unbeknownst to him, once reunited with his soul, he wouldn’t be able to return to his love.

‘I will sell thee my soul,’ he answered: ‘I pray thee buy it off me, for I am weary of it. Of what use is my soul to me? I cannot see it. I may not touch it. I do not know it.’

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