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How Oscar Wilde’s uses his stereotypes and concepts from traditional fairy tales and inverts them in his short stories

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Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales were written in Victorian times and reflects the era of Victorian regime in his stories. The appearance is shown the most important thing and conflict between rich and poor with people having no civil responsibilities at all are often seen in Wilde’s stories. A fairy tale is more like a wonder tale, involving many artificial things and elements, although it is not necessarily about fairies. Traditional fairy tales often have the same beginning and ending including good and evil or positive and negative.

Heroes are often described as brave, courageous and handsome where as heroines are likely to be described as beautiful. The evil characters are wicked animals, giants or characters that are supposed to act foolish, rather stupid in the story. Whoever the characters were, they were supposed to be known by their outfit or descriptions. The common features included were fighting evil, rescuing, selfish and proud characters. Most of the fairy tales opened with a happy start, a twist later on and ended with meeting of two peoples or indicated with ‘happy life ever after’.

Oscar Wilde’s tales contain many of traditional elements of popular fairy tales. His tales have characters representing both good and bad characters, characters that are either good or selfish and greedy. For example, in the “The Nightingale and the Rose” the image of the girl who the student loves is selfish as she didn’t care about true love but only the jewellery she could have if she were to love a rich man. Oscar Wilde’s characters are easily known by the character’s outfit and descriptions.

Like in “The Selfish Giant”, the giant is directly unveiled that he is a bad selfish giant and greedy who doesn’t want to share his garden with others but keep it to himself. Also like in other fairy tales Wilde’s character, for example God aren’t described by the character but with the situation, just like in Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant” it’s not revealed that the small boy is angel but later on unveiled to audience with a quote where boy says “You let me play once in your garden….. but… with my garden, which is paradise”. With the giant found dead lying under the tree, Audience can accommodate that the boy was supposed to be God.

In Wilde’s fairy tale stories, the theme of animal representing for good side and monsters are often used as the embodiment of the evil. Wilde’s use of other colloquial things to the traditional fairy tales are the Kings acting as villain being foolishly proud with their castles with it’s funny name as shown in “The Happy Prince”, the Prince in one conversation reveals that he was the Prince of ‘Sans – Souci’ which means ‘without care’. One of Wilde’s most popular fairy tales is “The Happy Prince” where Wilde tackles all the issues of poverty, privilege and a society divided in rich and poor.

Wilde describes the prince as the statue based on the country’s highest place from where he can see all the miseries and sufferings of the people. Wilde also talks about Prince past when he was alive and was the Prince living in castle “I did not know what the tears were, for I lived in the palace of Sans – Souci, where the sorrow is not allowed to enter” suggesting that Prince was rich and had powers but never cared about the poor people from his country and didn’t know the meaning of true suffering.

The prince also talks about his happy days when he used to have courtiers whom called him “Happy Prince” and he was happy indeed. Life was simple for the Prince and life didn’t have values for him as he lived in the palace as the King’s son and had greatest pleasure one could have. Wilde’s relation with fairy tale could be reflected here as Prince is being punished for his deeds, deeds of doing nothing. Prince reveals “they have set me up so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of the city, and though my heart is made of lead yet I cannot chose but weep”.

Prince now feels regret that he never really did anything for his people and now realises the sorrow of people and wants to help them. He is ashamed of all of those high standard social rich people in the society who do nothing but dominate the poor people and makes the situation worst. So, he can’t withstand the situation and therefore begins to help the poor people by giving away all of his attractive jewelleries gold, sapphires, ruby etc. One of the other factors that we get from the Wilde’s fairy tales is that he looks at the weakness of Human nature.

It is revealed in both “The Happy Prince” and “The Nightingale and the Rose”. At the start of the “The Happy Prince” the prince is glided with valuable jewellery, for eyes, he has two bright sapphires and ruby for the sword. All of the peoples in town are pleased with this fine masterwork using elegant words to describe it with even children’s proud of the statue. But once all the valuable jewellery was gone, peoples thought changed and elegant words were replaced with shabby and bedraggled.

People now demands to pull down the Prince statue as it’s no longer attractive and useful. The human nature of greediness is shown when even after melting the statue in furnace, mayors have a meeting to decide what to do with the metal and decides to build their own statue. There is no morale respect shown whatsoever to the statue of “The happy Prince”. Another fickle nature shown in Wilde’s fairy tales is in “The Nightingale and the Rose”. The author introduces us to a young student who claims to be in true love with Professor Daughter and cries for her for hours.

But audience can confirm after reading the story that it was indeed just a fickle human nature. The girl promises the student that she will go out with her if he manages to get the rose, the rose which later result in death of Nightingale as a sacrifice for a true love. But after the boy gets rose and Nightingale’s already dead, the girl denies him because if she goes out with her suitor she could have her jewellery she wanted. Here once again, Wilde’s convince audience of the ‘greed’ as part of the human nature. To conclude, the nightingale sacrifice had no meaning.

Ultimately, the blood she gave away to get the red rose ha no values at all, the rose for which Nightingale died was thrown out on the streets with boy not responding at all to get his love back but walks away with “What a silly thing love is”. We can simply tell that boy wasn’t in true love but it was just an attraction of girl. With the author’s tale audience would be convinced that the fickle nature of the Human is very destructive. In fact, the boy never knew that there was a Nightingale who sacrificed its life for the fake love and wasn’t even acknowledged.

In Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant”, the author introduced us to the giant who is gruff and selfishness is explored through stereotypical portrayal of the gruff giant. When the giant is introduced, it’s done cunningly as giant decides to return to his own castle after seven years and his first impact is his key characterisation, as a giant he starts with “what are you doing here” and “My own garden is my own…. I will allow nobody but myself”. Readers are informed that giant is selfish, greedy and self-centred. Wilde tries to reflect the traditional fairy tales through giant as giant being an embodiment of evil.

Giant’s action of throwing all the children out of garden, results in winter when it’s supposed to be spring, “the trees forget to blossom, birds don’t care to sing and spring goes away from giant’s garden”. “Every where there was green but only in giant’s garden was still cold with snow and forest” suggesting that giant is punished for his selfishness for not allowing children to play in his garden “Once a beautiful flower puts its head out from the grass, when its head out from the grass, but when it saw the notice board that children aren’t allowed then it slipped back…. “.

The author is clearly indicating the punishment for giant being so selfish. Like in other two stories “The Happy Prince” and “The Selfish Giant”, there is a twist in story with Giant as “one day, when the giant wakes up he finds out that endless winter has ended at last, and looked out of the window he found children playing happily outside of the garden”. And at the top, he sees one corner is still covered in the frost and a child is trying to climb the tree, tree is bending its branches as low as possible but the child couldn’t climb and seeing the trees and birds being happy, the giant’s ‘heart broke down’ and helps the children.

He starts to share his happiness and joy with children by letting them play in his garden. But again their’s one more twist before the story ends as the giant dies at last making it sad story and trying to link with morale values by giant’s death as punishment for his old sins. The author uses many elements of the stereotypical traditional fairy tale but his tales differ in many ways. Normally, a fairy tale begins with ‘Once upon a time’ but in Wilde’s tale we don’t find any specific fairy starting or fairy ending if ‘they lived happily ever after’. But it’s different in Wilde’s as it’s straightforward and connects with the whole story.

His introductions are very easily set up and are easy to understand. The ending is written in a way that the story remains incomplete but makes sense. All of the three fairy tales at the end have a twist in story and doesn’t satisfy the reader as it doesn’t mention what happen after the specific incident but end without real meaning which keeps reader guessing what happens next. All of the Wilde’s fairy tales are short stories with modern moral lesson given. In his tales, character sacrificing themselves for others, helping others or changing themselves dies at last giving story a new twist.

In Wilde’s tale, it’s not necessary that main characters lead to a happy life or whoever triumphs has a happy life. The nature of human of not appreciating other sacrifice is shown in Wilde’s tales. The author takes us on a tour of modern life and true factors of society where people fight for living, and greed is shown on all of the three Wilde tales. There are some extreme imagery used in Wilde’s fairy tales which I think is cunningly done as in” The Happy Prince” when the prince eyes are pulled out or in “The Nightingale and the Rose” when the nightingale dies in front of tree with the thorns.

Readers could easily visualise the scene because of the descriptions used and helps in raising the reader’s curiosity. Oscar Wilde’s tales can be compared to natural fairy tales but yet they match with modern life. Wilde’s tales are very different from traditional fairy tale. All of Wilde’s three fairy tales has sad ending and no specific ending. Wilde’s tales are very effective as it show the reader the flaws of modern life, selfishness and greed. His tales are also effective as the language he uses is very solid and straight.

To conclude, I think people will get the message that Oscar Wilde’s want to get across to the reader that fickle nature are destructive, the shortfalls of people who are selfish, the comparison of rich and poor and so on. I think Oscar Wilde’s tales are still popular because they are short and so quick to read and memorise. The moral messages are given frequently and because they are based on modern life, it’s good for children’s as well. The most important thing is Oscar Wilde has adopted a new way of providing readers with fun and knowledge.

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