The Happy Prince
by Oscar Wilde
Suitable for intermediate English level and above.
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Themes and Summary
This short story by Oscar Wilde has at least three themes:
- Appearances are superficial and do not represent lasting value. Real value lies in love and sacrifice.
- Love and sacrifice are both redemptive and transformative when people assert them.
- Social injustice (Wilde wrote in the late 19th Century but it is also true today) is a characteristic of society and can be seen by the different conditions experienced by the rich and the poor, the aristocrats and ruling classes and the populace.
When the prince is alive, he lives in a palace where sorrow isexcluded and his life is one of happiness. However, when he dies a statue of the Happy Prince is set up on a tall column in the city. The statue of the happy prince can see all the misery beneath him
How the Happy Prince’s statue, with the help of a swallow (a type of bird) goes about helping the people and the results of his efforts is the subject matter of the story.
The story was first published in 1888.
Reading options and reading test
When you have finished the story you will be able to do a test online at
https://english4today.com/oscar-wilde-reading/ to see how well you have understood the text.
You can download the story as a PDF file or read the story online and then do the reading comprehension test.