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Irish Short Story Week – Wilde

March 18, 2011
Oscar Wilde, three-quarter length portrait, fa...

Image via Wikipedia

In honor of St Patrick’s Day, Mel U at The Reading Life is hosting Irish Short Story Week.   Today I am reading short stories by famous writer and playwright Oscar Wilde.

The first tale read was “The Nightingale and The Rose” which was a somewhat disturbing tale.  It is a tale about a student who laments because he needs a red rose to dance with the woman he loves, but he cannot find a red rose.  A nightingale hears his woes and begins searching for the rose.  The only way a red rose can be produced is through the sacrifice of the nightingale.

“… you shall have your red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with my own heart’s-blood. All that I ask of you in return is that you will be a true lover, for Love is wiser than Philosophy, though he is wise, and mightier than Power, though he is mighty. Flame-coloured are his wings, and coloured like flame is his body. His lips are sweet as honey, and his breath is like frankincense.”

This tale is about great sacrifices and how they can be easily tossed aside as when the student receives the rose and takes it to his love, she is unimpressed and he simply tosses the rose aside and walks home.  It is about the trifles of love and how something that seems so serious at one moment may be simple the next.  It makes you reflect on the great cost and sacrifice that the nightingale made.

“The Devoted Friend” is a story about the pitfalls of trusting your “friends” too much and being selfish.  The story is told by a linnet to a water rat.  The tale is of a gardener who is used by his “friend” a miller.  The miller talks a lot about being a devoted friend, but then takes but does not give.  He cons the gardener into doing several chores for him and makes the gardener feel guilty and like a bad friend if he says no.  It is said to be a story with a moral.

“The Remarkable Rocket” appears to be a tale mocking the upper classes.  A group of fireworks sit and talk and one thinks he is far superior to the others.

“I am a very remarkable Rocket, and come of remarkable parents. My mother was the most celebrated Catherine Wheel of her day, and was renowned for her graceful dancing. When she made her great public appearance she spun round nineteen times before she went out, and each time that she did so she threw into the air seven pink stars. She was three feet and a half in diameter, and made of the very best gunpowder. My father was a Rocket like myself, and of French extraction. He flew so high that the people were afraid that he would never come down again.”

He ends up being a dud and does nothing.  The rocket is all talk and not much else.  He ends up in a pond and talks to the animals there, once again reiterating his snobbishness. This is a humorous tale about talk versus action.

Oscar Wilde’s short stories are simple and easy to read, some are humorous, some have sad elements to them, all are good.

Irish Short Story Week

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2011 5:42 pm

    This “Nightingale” story sounds interesting and raises my curiosity. Could it work as a metaphor for the artist and the reader/audience, I wonder?

    • March 23, 2011 6:29 pm

      Interesting thought … you can find the story on Project Gutenberg here.

      • March 27, 2011 9:31 am

        Thanks! I’m sure this story must feature in Wilde’s Collected Stories, which I have here. I must find the time to read it now…

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