The Nightingale and the Rose (Wilde)

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The Nightingale and the Rose
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A nightingale sacrificed her life to create a red rose for a student to give to his love, only for the girl to reject it, leaving the student disillusioned with love.

A young student was heartbroken because he couldn't find a red rose in his garden to give to the girl he loved, who promised to dance with him if he brought her one.

The Student — young man in love with a girl; initially passionate, but becomes disillusioned with love; knowledgeable in philosophy.

Ah, on what little things does happiness depend! I have read all that the wise men have written, and all the secrets of philosophy are mine, yet for want of a red rose is my life made wretched.

A nightingale, who had been singing about true love, overheard the student's lament and decided to help him.

The Nightingale — a bird with a beautiful voice; selfless, romantic, and devoted to the idea of true love.

The nightingale searched for a red rose but found none. Eventually, a rose tree told her that she could create a red rose by singing to it all night with her breast against a thorn, sacrificing her life in the process.

Death is a great price to pay for a red rose, and Life is very dear to all. Yet Love is better than Life, and what is the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man?

The nightingale, believing that love was more important than life, agreed to the sacrifice. She sang all night, her song growing more passionate as the thorn pierced her heart and her lifeblood flowed into the rose. The rose turned from pale to pink and finally to a deep crimson, symbolizing the love that is perfected by death.

The next day, the student found the red rose and excitedly brought it to the girl.

The Girl — the object of the Student's affection; materialistic, ungrateful, and dismissive of the Student's feelings.

However, she rejected the rose, saying it wouldn't match her dress and that she preferred the jewels given to her by the Chamberlain's nephew. The student, angry and disillusioned, threw the rose into the gutter and decided to abandon love in favor of studying philosophy and metaphysics.

What a silly thing Love is. It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything, and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true.

Meanwhile, the nightingale lay dead in the grass, her sacrifice unnoticed and unappreciated.