Hello everyone. Happy February. If you’ve been following all of my updates here on Katelovesliterature.com, then you’ll already know that I decided to read The Oscar Wilde Collection: A Selection Of His Greatest Works and discuss this collection as January’s Book Of The Month.
I chose to read a selection of short stories because I wanted to explore more of Oscar Wilde’s work, but I also felt that a collection of short stories would be a good choice to read through in January as it can be a long, busy month after Christmas.
Firstly, I will say that I really enjoyed reading the collection and if you are a fan of Oscar Wilde then I think a collection like this is a really lovely collector’s item. I’m very glad that I bought it as it is a welcome addition to my classics collection.
As this is a collection of stories rather than just one text, I’ve decided that I’m going to take a moment to talk about Oscar Wilde’s writing style in general, before I move on to focus on one story from the collection that stood out as I was reading.
Wilde is often described as a very memorable person, someone who was expressive and very witty and I think that his wit and clever use of word play can be easily pointed out in The Importance of Being Earnest, which is my favourite Wilde play. Wilde is a very imaginative writer, he describes things very vividly and very beautifully, I think that his language is often poetic at times. Wilde also uses paradox very often, and I think that some of his writing can be read through an almost sarcastic lens as he was very often making comments about the society that he lived in, this social commentary can be found again if one looks to The Importance of Being Earnest. I plan to discuss this play in more detail at a later date.
I really enjoyed reading through this collection because some of the descriptions he has written are extremely beautiful, even if they are morbid. I think that I actually enjoyed the saddest paragraphs the most because I was so moved by his words. I think that Wilde was a real master of the English language, he was able to use words in such a precise way that they really paint a very vivid picture in one’s mind.
The story that stood out to me when I was reading this collection is entitled The Nightingale and The Rose.
This story stood out to me because in my opinion, I think that this story highlights the clash between English Literature and more so-called “serious” subjects. When I was in secondary school, there was this idea that English class was “only English”. I think it is a subject that people don’t take seriously unless they enjoy it. I think that this can happen quite a lot where people who do not study or do not enjoy the arts have this idea that it’s “only” music, and I can only speak from my own experience but I always felt that maths, science, and business were given more respect than English, music, and art. I think there’s still an idea that exists where if you like the arts, you can often be told to choose a more serious or more realistic topic. I would like to clarify that I respect all subjects and all professions. I think it is amazing that we have so many options about what to study. If someone loves working with numbers and chooses to pursue maths or science then I say good for them, but I think that you will hear someone say “it’s only English” more often than you would hear someone say “it’s only science” or “it’s only business”.
The Nightingale and The Rose is about a student who wishes to woo his love interest with a red rose. Only a red rose will do. A little nightingale loves the student, she loves his wish for love, she wishes to help him woo his love so she gives her life so that he may have the reddest rose of all, because the rose was formed from her music and stained with her heart. The nightingale gave herself in song, she created something utterly beautiful, she gave her all, but the student didn’t appreciate it. The student dismissed her singing because singing “does no practical good”.
The rose is formed and the student is overjoyed as he will finally win over his love, but the girl does not care for the rose, another boy has given her jewels so the beauty of the rose no longer impresses her. The student is hurt by her ungratefulness and he throws the rose to the ground, and then he returns to his books. He returns to studying mathematics and philosophy, newly determined in his belief that love is a silly thing for there is no logic in it, and logic rules all.
The student knows nothing of the nightingale’s sacrifice. He does not know that she gave her life for him, he still believes her to be a selfish creature that only cares about her song. The nightingale’s sacrifice was for nothing because the student, nor his love, appreciated it.
I found this story to be extremely poignant. Art is such an important medium of self expression, as is poetry, as is music, and when one is an artistic person, so much of oneself goes into our art. It is our passion, it is so important, and when we sing or paint or write, we give something of ourselves. So when one dismisses the arts, they are also dismissing the artist because it can be a deeply personal thing.
I interpreted this to be a story about how much artists give to creativity and how disappointing it is when someone does not see the value in one’s work. I was so frustrated by the student. I wish he knew that the nightingale had given her all for him so he could at least appreciate her, but I know the point is that he didn’t.
Obviously there are many ways that one could interpret this story. One could think about the dangers of giving up one’s entire being for love, and this is a valid point. This short story serves as a reminder that while it is okay to love someone and be in love, you should never give up your own self worth or individuality for that person. You can be in love while retaining your own sense of self and individuality.
I think that this story can prompt thoughts about love and how we show love. This student was determined to win over his love by presenting her with the most beautiful red rose. He thought if he could give her this rose then she would dance with him at the ball and all would be well, but she didn’t appreciate his gift. She wanted more, she was far more impressed by jewels, and perhaps it is a message about how one shouldn’t be so obsessed with physical things. Love should be about kindness and respect and the connection one has with another person, not about trinkets but I think Wilde could have been making an observation about society. To this day, many people are preoccupied with physical things and wealth rather than genuine connections.
Overall, I think this is a really poignant short story that can be discussed from many different angles and it can be interpreted in many different ways. It is beautifully written by Wilde as it is so descriptive and imaginative that even the saddest of moments are still beautiful to read. It felt almost lyrical and I really enjoyed it.
If you have not read much of Oscar Wilde’s work then I would highly recommend starting with The Nightingale and The Rose.
This has been January’s Book Of The Month. I hope you enjoyed this discussion.
Have you read much of Oscar Wilde’s work? Let me know.