The Happy Prince is a story that pictures the deeds of two understanding and loving beings, though they are not human; the Happy Prince and the little Swallow. They develop a very enduring strong bond of love, so that they are not separated even after their demise. Their love for each other develop on a very strong basics as they loved the poor; they loved the unloved. The beauty of the story increases with the irony that these non – human entities are the ones who radiate humanity most intensely.
Ironically when the Happy Prince was a human, he failed to understand humanity, he failed to understand suffering. As he explains his reason for crying, being “The Happy Prince” to swallow he says,
“ When I was alive and had a human heart….. I did not know what tears were.”
He could not feel for others when he had a human heart but when was placed on a high pedestal he could see all the misery of his people and he ‘can not choose but weep.’ This blindness of the affluent towards the difficult lives of the poor is not uncommon. Not only the prince but also most of the elite have the same mind set. The lady who order the dressmaker to embroider passion flowers on her dress does not understand the silent suffering the seamstress undergoes. They have over worked and they have their children ill but the lady thinks the ‘seamstresses are so lazy.’ The Happy Prince’s weeping shows how grave is the suffering of the poor. Despite the fact he is ‘The Happy Prince’ and a statue, he weeps. The suffering of the city is strong enough to move a statue in tears. But the prevailing pathetic situation is not relieved by the relevant authorities. Not only the rulers but also religion stays ‘marble’ to the suffered. It is shown effectively as the little Swallow passes
‘by the cathedral tower, where the white marble angle sculptured.”
Having seen all and understood all the statue Happy Prince wants strongly to help his people and he starts his humanitarian work with the help of the little Swallow.
The Happy Prince’s love for his subjects grows to the point where he becomes self sacrificing. He begins giving away with more outward things like the ruby on the sward hilt and continuous to give away to sacrificing his own eyesight. As eye is the most precious thing to a man it shows how unfathomable is his love for his people. He chooses to become blind to give happiness, health and wealth and other necessities to the others. Like peeling off his own skin, he gives his ‘thin leaves of fine gold’ for the sake of poor. This is done with pure love and humanity, giving away without expecting anything in return not even others gratitude or understanding. Through his sacrifices ‘the children’s faces grew rosier’ while he becomes not so beautiful outwardly. His looks made the callous mayor say,
“Dear me! how shabby the Happy Prince looks!”
“Little better than a bagger.”
While showing the greatness of love and humanity Oscar Wilde shows the meanness of careless human beings and unfeeling institutions. The mayor and town councillors who bear the responsibility of making the town a better place for people, to improve the condition are careless to the point where they see their own importance only. They pull down the really great Happy Prince who is not attractive outwardly but truly beautiful inwardly to make their own statues there. The humanity of the statue Happy Prince is greatly manifested when it is shown in contrast with the
“The rich making merry in their houses while the bagger sitting at their gates.”
The Happy Prince’s humanity and heart touching love make the Swallow understand the value of being kind. He too is taken into these beautiful acts of kindness and he fans the feverish boy with his own freely generated loving kindness, (not asked by Happy Prince). His kindness was so warm that he does not feel cold. He exclaims that to the Happy Prince,
“but I feel quite warm now although it is cold now.”
“That is because you have done a good action”
The Swallow wants strongly o go away as it is so difficult to him to survive the winter. But he loves the Happy Prince greatly now and he feels he can not leave the blind Happy Prince as the Happy Prince sacrifices everything for the sake of the poor. The little Swallow sacrifices his own life to give the Happy Prince a company throughout the winter. He stays with him and tells him the stories about marvellous things first and about the city second.
Love between the Happy Prince and the Swallow can be seen in contrast with the love between little Swallow and the Reed. The relationship between Reed and the Swallow is based on superficial beauty. They do not match well, their ideas differ. Reed loves rain where the Swallow does not like it. A bond between two based only on outer beauty tends to fall apart when they faced hardships. The little Swallow is left alone by the relatives and he begins to feel bored with his lady love. The reed too attracted to the wind. One love travelling where the other is bound to home. So the relationship fails. It is a falls love. Happy Prince and the Swallow’s love is not a love at first sight. They work for a common course which is very noble and they understand each other well. They both work with true love for other beings. They love each other to the point that they cannot be separated.
That love and their humanity is admired and praised by God. The angle chooses the broken heart of the Happy Prince and the carcass of the little Swallow as the most precious things in the world. They are the symbols of the love and humanity. Oscar Wilde here shows even though the great love is not understood by the shallow minded human the God sees it and they are rewarded finally. Unrecognised love and humanity are thrown away by human beings but chosen by angles. The irony here emphasizes the quality of love. Thus in the story “Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde, love and humanity rise up brightly.