In this story we have two major characters – Happy Prince and little Swallow who struggle and sacrifice to help the poor people survive the harsh winter. In the end, they both die, but life goes on as it was before.
Oscar Wilde was known for his unconventional wisdom among his contemporaries. He saw through life and its paradoxes like nobody else before him, which made his writing deeply philosophical and, I would say, troubling.
In this article I listed down five lessons one can derive from “Happy Prince” that are still relevant today. Hopefully, after reading them you will understand why uniting the world with a Paris Climate Treaty is so important, why art and beauty cannot be trusted, and why it is important to look out for your family and friends.
1.Appearance Will Be Accounted
When Happy Prince the Statue is all glistening and glorious, the mayor as well as other town folks considers him a masterpiece. However, when he is stripped of this ostensible glory, very quickly the city council decides to hurl his remnants into the dumpster.
Nobody tries to figure out why he turned out to be so shabby all of a sudden. People do not question the morality of their behavior when discarding a town’s symbol that, although void of its original glitter, was still a part of their history and heritage.
They also do not connect the dots between the disappearance of Prince’s gemstones and their fortuitous affluence. They judged by the appearance without even trying to examine the reasons of its deplorable change.
2.Art Is a Lie
Oscar Wilde is very ironic when describing the mayor’s evaluation of the statue. The author shows how the mayor cannot really substantiate his admiration, but only praises it to come off as a fancy art connoisseur.
Just like this, the modern world is the gallery, and elite and rich collectors determine the value of art, not the objective assessment. They allow only a small portion of art (not necessarily the best art) to be recognized and celebrated.
The mayor is not hesitant about disposing of the statue when it is devoid of its conspicuous luxury. Happy Prince was no longer a symbol of happiness and prosperity which was pretty alarming for the mayor. Happy Prince was no longer a lie, but a harsh truth, and the mayor did not want to look it in the eye.
In this short story we have two tragic characters who sacrifice their lives for the sake of others. They disregard their own needs, thus ending up deprived of the basic means for existence.
First, Swallow falls in love with coquettish Reed that being a plant does not reciprocate. Then he stays with Happy Prince, fascinated with his courage and kindness. In the end, he dies because his species is supposed to spend winter in warm Egypt to survive. This intense love and sympathy killed Swallow, as he could not make rational decisions because of it.
Happy Prince is dismembered for the same reason. He tries to help everyone at expense of his own life. Both Swallow and Happy Prince end up dead, so the morale of this story is to think about yourself first before rushing to help, otherwise, you may not have a happy ending.
4.Charity Begins at Home
Happy Prince does not listen to Swallow, when he tries to explain the necessity of going to Egypt. Prince gives away his possessions to the town’s poor, overlooking his friend’s suffering. When Swallow dies, his heart breaks, but it is too late to change anything.
It is commendable to strive to assist others. Nonetheless, it is essential to first make sure that those closest to you receive your care and attention. Otherwise, this charity is just a show-off.
Those people who Happy Prince helped were the ones deposing his statue. They did not try to renovate it with some of that money they got from selling his gemstones. Charity improves life conditions, but it does not change the heart for better.
5.Unity is a Key
Happy Prince and Swallow are adamant to give a helpful hand to as many poor folks as they can. However, in the end we see that those minor improvements were of little value when taken in the global perspective.
When the statue of Prince is toppled, the mayor decrees to erect the one dedicated to him in its place. Basically, one symbol of wealth and superiority is going to be substituted by another one of the same category.
If those people did not die out that winter thanks to Prince’s and Swallow’s sacrifice, they would most likely perish a year later. It is not enough to impact the lives of individual families when the framework of society stays the same.