The Self and the Other in the Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888) by Oscar Wilde

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Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was one of the most successful authors of the late Victorian Age. Wilde was involved in the aestheticism movement, which attempted to establish art as just pieces of beauty. Many people of the Victorian Era believed all works of art had a deeper meaning and purpose other than for pleasure, but Wilde worked to disprove this idea. He believed that art is self sufficient and it does not have to teach morals or to show political commitment to society, and that the artist is not obliged to explain what he or she means and can still be a good artist. Wilde, as a college student, was deeply impressed by the English writers John Ruskin and Walter Pater, who argued for the central importance of art in life. Wilde later commented ironically when he wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray that "All art is quite useless". In 1879 Wilde started to teach aesthetic values in London. As a playwright, short story writer, poet and journalist, Wilde is one of the most famous and interesting authors nowadays. Famous not only for his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, but also for his unique fairy tales, Wilde became favorite of many people during decades. The idea of writing fairy tales came really accidentally to Oscar Wilde. He was in Cambridge for The Eumenides# when ,to entertain his friends, he had to made up a story. At this time (1885), Oscar already had a child, Cyril, and maybe because of him, the story he created then had the form of a fairy tale, but the students liked it. This story was titled later as The Happy Prince. With The Happy Prince and Other Tales, Wilde amazed everybody, as he was understood as a subversive writer, an amoral person and an enemy of the Victorian values. Counter to this understanding, the so called “Professor of Aesthetics” teaches moral in his fairy tales. Oscar Wilde creates fairy tales, unseen before; fairy tales, whose target audience can not be categorically identified. His fairy tales are not the usual fairy tales, written for children. Wilde tries to show to the world that fairy tales could teach not only children about moral and human values, but the adults, too. In his tales the great writer teaches about moral, love, goodness, happiness, the importance of the inner beauty etc. He shows in his works that is not necessary for a tale to end with a happy ending, with the including of death as a cost paid for forgiveness in most of his stories. He also reveals the sad and inconvenient truth, that good does not necessarily triumph over evil, especially in a world full of vanity and soulless wealth. However, one of the main ideas, and for me the most important, is the development of the characters in the tales - their gradual understanding that the outside beauty is not the most important thing is life, their true repentance for the life they had lived and their will to improve their selves and to truly love somebody. The difference between the self at the beginning of the story, and the self in the end, and, mainly, what is the reason for that change. Do the other or others characters of the story have intervention in it? In each fairy tale of Oscar Wilde there is such a story and moral that penetrate directly into your soul and spirit and make you think about the real and significant things in life and whether they are the same for every person. In the tale The Happy Prince the author comments of selfishness, foolishness and vanity of people in one town. Looking from above, he shows to the reader a town and its citizens - the rich and the poor, and as if he shows two completely different towns and two completely different views of what is valuable. The story is about a prince, who had lived his life, entertaining his friends and himself, satisfying all his needs, except one - that of his soul. Oscar Wilde shows the self-development in the prince and in the swallow, too. The realization is the first step for the prince to grow up...
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