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Oscar Wilde and His Fairy Tales

Essay by   •  February 8, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  5,079 Words (21 Pages)  •  4,271 Views

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Oscar Wilde And His Fairy Tales

I. Introduction

Wilde, Oscar (Fingal O'Flahertie Wills) (b. Oct. 16, 1854, Dublin, Ire ?d. Nov. 30, 1900, Paris, Fr.) Irish wit, poet and dramatist whose reputation rests on his comic masterpieces Lady Windermere's Fan (1893) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1899). He was a spokesman for Aestheticism, the late19th-century movement in England that advocated art for art's sake. However, Oscar Wilde's takeoff of his enterprise and, his shaping of his characteristic style of works could be both considered originating from his fairy tales. It was not until his first collection of fairy tales had come out that he was regarded as an influential author. The British magazine Elegance, in which his The Selfish Giant is said to be adequately regarded as "the perfect works?and, his complete collection of fairy tales are even said to be the quintessence of the pure English language, equates him with the famous Danish writer of fairy tales Hans Christian Anderson.

In order to explore and study the fact why Oscar Wilde's takeoff of his enterprise and, his shaping of his characteristic style of works could be both considered originating from his fairy tales, and the social, religious and aesthetic aspects of Oscar Wilde's fairy tales, in this essay, I try to analyze from the angles of sociology and religion three of Oscar Wilde's fairy tales, namely The Happy Prince, The Selfish Giant and The Young King, which personally I regard as the most typical characteristic style of Oscar Wilde's works.

In this essay, the first chapter gives a brief introduction and background of Oscar Wilde and his fairy tales; the second chapter summarizes the three fairy tales which I have chosen to study, namely The Happy Prince, The Selfish Giant and The Young King; the third chapter expounds from the angles of sociology and religion my personal in-depth study and analysis of the three fairy tales of Oscar Wilde; the last chapter gives a personal brief conclusion of the value of Oscar Wilde's fairy tales.

II. A Brief Introduction and Background of Oscar Wilde and His Fairy tales

Once upon a time there was a boy named Oscar Wilde. Oscar lived on a far way land called Ireland with his mother and father. His parents loved him very much. They would often tell him folklore of their native land that greatly interested Oscar. One day, Oscar decided he too would like to become a writer so he could tell stories like those he grew up with. He told his parents his dream and although they were very sad to see their son go, they realized he must go into the world to seek his fortune. They sent his far across the sea to a distant land called Great Britain where he learned to write and eventually succeeded in becoming very famous. He studied and wrote many stories, tales, and plays that made the British people very happy. He was rewarded for his good work with a beautiful maiden and two sons as well as the acceptance of society. Oscar was very happy with his life and his ability to please the people, but he soon became very confused. Many of his opinion and ideas were not what the people wanted to hear and some of his work was not accepted as other pieces had been. Yet Oscar felt he must be true to himself and continued to express his beliefs. Sadly, while h was still a young man, he angered some of the people so much that they made sure he would be imprisoned in a terrible dungeon for many years. The people in Britain who once enjoyed his work became frightened because they did not understand what was happening to Oscar nor did they agree with many of his ideas and assumed he must be awfully bad for such a strict punishment. They soon stopped being interested in his work and shunned him from the life he worked so hard to achieve. Even after escaping from the dreadful dungeon, Oscar could never again find the happiness he had lost. Instead, he felt this world in sadness just a few years later, leaving only his work by which to be remembered.

Oscar Wilde may not have lived happily ever after, but much of the work he left us reveals a side to his story that was and is often ignored. Any well-educated individual knows Wilde the extravagant and flamboyant homosexual, however few ever look past this faÐ*ade to uncover his deeply spiritual and moral side. A great deal of his work does not simply make sneaky comments on homosexuality and the Aesthetic British society of the late Victorian era, much of it instead illustrates Christian values, spiritual well-being, and a hope for the good of humanity. His two volumes of fairy tales, The Happy Prince, 1888, and A House of Pomegranates, 1891, in particular clearly critique many aspects of nineteenth century British society such as the government and religious systems, but never stray from promoting moral decency and social ethics. A close investigation of a few examples from Wilde's tales depicts not a lost soul, decadent and depraved, but rather a virtuous man hoping for the utopian society he envisions. Wilde creates an appropriate arena to voice this somewhat objectionable hope for humanity in a socially accepted manner within his fairy tales through the use of rhetorical devices such as genre, persona, tone, and allusion. Readers are given the chance to identify with his characters and moreover, learn from the hardly the immoral lesson of which he is so often accused.

III. The Summaries of the Three Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde--The Happy Prince, The Selfish Giant and The Young King

Possibly all of Wilde's tales illustrate his use of rhetorical devices in order to comment on aspects of society, including the three I have chosen to look at "The Happy Prince?and "The Selfish Giant?from The Happy Prince and "The Young King?from A House of Pomegranates. "The Happy Prince?is perhaps his most famous fairy tale. The story centers on the happy prince, once a sheltered and ignorant young man, realizing for the first time truths he never suspected while living but is exposed to now from his current position "high above the city? A swallow on his way to a warmer climate for the winter befriends him and together they strip the Happy Prince of his valuables and distribute them to the needy inhabitants of the city. The two develop a close and loving friendship. When the swallow dies due to exposure to the cold winter, the Prince's leaden heart breaks and the two are carelessly disposed of by the city officials and then taken to heaven by an angel as "the two most precious things in the city?

"The Selfish Giant?ends on a very similar note.

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