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.
The Village by the Sea by Anita Desai is a colourful verbal picture of a family in fishing village Thul, which shows how the family is pressed down by several serious issues and how they manage to emerge victoriously in the end. The keen reader is able to see without much effort that the key to this victory is none other than their learning to adapt to change. Not only the family but also all successful people we see in the story are constant learners form life and from the situations they face. Accordingly they make changes in their outlooks and approaches to better adapt themselves the situations. Therefore it seems the most important theme that is prominent throughout the story.
Hari, the liveliest of all characters we find in the novel is a frustrated little boy when we first see him. He is in a seemingly hopeless situation. There are several problems weighing him down. He has become the sole breadwinner of the family at such tender age. He does everything he can do to keep the home fire burning. Hari break bunches of coconuts, fishes along the shallow sea, works in the arid field. He knows that one day he has to shoulder the responsibility of giving his sisters in marriage which will amount to an unbearable sum of money. To the top of all these mother is in a condition that needs urgent medical treatment. Their father has ceased to earn any money, but the worst is he has been in the habit of living on debt. Finally , unable to bear the strain , he runs away to Bombay in utter desperation. After this turning point of his life, he learns to adapt , and he becomes quite good at that. He works earnestly at Sri Krishna Eating House for everything Jagu does for him, and with his good qualities earns the company of Mr. Panwallah. Mr. Panwallah acts as a true benefactor to Hari.
“ ………. Learn, learn, learn – so that you can grow and change. Things change all the time, boy- nothing remains the same.”
These are Mr.Panwallah’s encouraging words to Hari. These words condense the theme of the novel. Mr. Panwallah Hari learns the new watch mending skill. Now he is not just an idle village boy, he has become a skilled worker. He has worked hard and earned and saved enough money to start a poultry farm at his place. Now he is equipped with everything he wants to survive at the changing village. The most importantly he has learnt now to be open for changes, and to see the opportunity that lies in difficult situations. Hari’s friend Ramu awaits the change but he does not learn to adapt himself to the change he expects.
“ Everything has to change over here –everything is going to be different.”
He says to Hari.
“But Ramu, ……….. We have to change too, we shall have to become different as well.”
Hari reminds Ramu. This highlights the theme “learning to adapt to change.”
Lila who is left alone to run the family, matures with her experiences and learns to adapt to the changing situations. When the De Silva’s arrive and ask for the services of Hari, she quickly assumes the duties Hari used to carry out and gets Mr. de Silva to take her mother to hospital. She doesn’t wait for miracles to happen. She does whatever comes in her way and works tirelessly. She succeeded in winning the kindness of her employers , so that they willingly extended their helping hands to her. She is paid for her work and thoughtful Mr. de Silva arranges her to be the caretaker of Mr. Sayyid Ali. It made their family going until Hari arrives rich from Bombay. Lila is a courageous girl who constantly adapts herself to the changing situations.
Learning to adapt to change can be seen in Biju’s approach to life too. He does not alter his livelihood, but seeks new horizons within the same traditional trade. Being a technologically minded person, Biju early sees the importance of having a boat with a diesel engine, to sail far in to the sea to catch more and the importance of having a refrigerator to keep the catch unspoiled.
“ Things have to change. Then they will improve……….Improve ! Change!”
is what he always tries to convince the villagers. He is not a young man but still he learns new things and uses them to improve his wealth. So he adapts himself better to the changing world and emerges triumphantly in the end. No matter the factory comes into being or not he will grow richer and richer as he is open to learn to adapt. He will be able to catch more fish and sell them in Bombay, or to sell them in the village to the newly thriving society of employees of the factory. Those who could not adapt to the changes have to work in the factory in the lowest layer or they are doomed to live miserable lives, complaining.
The traditional static village can no longer offer enough opportunities for the growing population of young people. As the cart driver says ,
“Nothing is enough. We are too many on earth now. “
That is the cart driver’s interpretation of population explosion problem. Actually change is called for by needs of people, therefore change is natural and inevitable. As far as the crooked politicians and profit oriented entrepreneurs involved that change can bring harmful effects too. But if one is to survive one has to learn to adapt to the changing environments. Mr. Panwallah, the optimistic benefactor with cosmopolitan mindset , stands exemplary showing how one can learn to adapt. As once he tells Hari, he had lived in a villa with a beautiful garden with roses and fountains and now he lives in a ‘pigeon roost over a railway station’. Certainly this is not an improvement of conditions, but still he has learned to accept that and to live as happily and as virtuously as he can. Even though he does not have any relative living with him, he is much loved and well taken care of by the neighbours. As a skilled worker, he lives comparatively comfortable life in Bombay whereas the unskilled workers live struggling under zero conveniences in shacks hanging on a mountainside. Being an advocate of learning to change, he too learns to mend newly arriving electrical watches from Japan. He is not despondent about that.
“ But there is more to learn………… See, in my old age I have to learn about a new kind of watch. You can learn too.”
He does not look down upon these new watches for their being electric but he takes the chance to learn that new skill. Even though he is old and feeble in body, he seems to be very youthful and agile in his approach to life – learning new skills helping whoever happens to come his way, and living happily, due to his ability to adapt.
Mr. Sayyid Ali, who is very pessimistic towards change, as he is more concerned with conserving nature and his baya birds, finally finds himself relieved as he accepts the fact that the birds too, will learn to adapt.
Hence, as we observed the people who are going to be successful in their lives have learnt to adapt themselves to the changing environment. Others like Ramu, some other villagers and Khanekar brothers will find themselves in more difficult situations later. The theme learning to adapt to change shines through the story, prominently, making it a very inspiring novel to the young readers.
Relate the following to the context.
- “What’s the matter ? Is your father a fisherman? Does he own one of those boats?”
- “Get away, will you! Leave me alone. Can’t stand to see your pumpkin- face. Take it away…”
- “They will cut it down. Make it all flat. Build the factory on top.”
- “Lila could not spend money on such things. She went to one of the two grocery stores on the market square where one could buy rice, eggs, potatoes, sugar, oil, tea and sweets.”
- “Slowly, slowly daughter, What is the hurry? First I must have water for my cow – fresh well water. Next I must have grass for her – fresh tender grass. Then I will come and see your mother. ”
- “Hari, will you get us some of those sugar toys that they sell in Alibagh at Diwali ? You know what I mean? – those white sugar horses and elephants?”
- “Hari thought of his sisters, Bela and Kamal, in their indigo blue skirts, skipping and running down the village road to the school by the hill and wondered when he would see them again.”
- Father’s still lying there , asleep. He sleeps all day. He will only get up at night and go straight to the toddy shop…..and then mother? How will mother get well if she never gets any medicine? ………… we don’t go to school any more, you and I. Only Bela and Kamal go – and next year we won’t be able to buy them any new books……. We hardly eat anything but this dry bread or dry rice everyday………..”
- “Hari ! Hari! I knew you would come! It’s Diwali tomorrow and I knew you’d come.”
- “Useless drunken villagers – dead drunk in the morning. What can you do for them? There are hopeless. ”
- “Gone out or hiding under his wife’s bed? Shall I come and drag him out?”
- “ But Lila was not used to being rich even for a day. She stood watching the others bargain and haggle and after all the baskets of prawns and pomfrets had been sold, she bought some jaola, the cheapest fish one could buy.”
- “ He would get away. He would go to Rewas. To Bombay and never come back to this sad house, his frightened sisters, ill mother, his drunken father; he would leave them and run, run as far away as he could go.”
- “Oh, don’t work for Biju , Hari. You just said he is a smuggler. He may turn into a smuggler too. …… the police will catch you and put you in jail.”
- “You should never have left, boy. You shouldn’t have left your mother and sisters to come here. Look how thin and sick you have grown here.”