The Fisherman and His Soul

by

Oscar Wilde

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The Mermaid Character Analysis

The unnamed Mermaid is the object of the Fishermans affections, and though she is absent for most of the story she is integral to its development. When the Fisherman asks the Mermaid to marry him, she tells him she can only be with him if he gives up his Soul, and on account of his love for he readily decides to do so. Following this, for three years they live happily together in the sea. When the Fisherman is eventually tempted by his Soul to go back into the world, however, he commits a series of evil acts and finds he can no longer separate himself from his Soul, which prevent him from later returning to the Mermaid. The Mermaid subsequently dies, perhaps of heartbreak, and her body is brought up out of the sea by the Sea-folk. As the Fisherman clutches her dead body in despair he drowns, and both of their bodies are placed in an unmarked grave.

The Mermaid Quotes in The Fisherman and His Soul

The The Fisherman and His Soul quotes below are all either spoken by The Mermaid or refer to The Mermaid. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Power of Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of The Fisherman and His Soul published in 2012.
The Fisherman and His Soul Quotes

"Of what use is my soul to me? I cannot see lt. I may not touch it. I do not know it. Surely I will send it away from me, and much gladness shall be mine."

Related Characters: The Fisherman (speaker), The Soul, The Mermaid
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

“The love of the body is vile,” cried the Priest […] “and vile and evil are the pagan things God suffers to wander through His world. Accursed be the Fauns of the woodland, and accursed by the singers of the sea! They are lost […] For them there is no heaven or nor hell, and in neither shall they praise God’s name.”

Related Characters: The Priest (speaker), The Fisherman, The Mermaid
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

Now when the young Fisherman heard the words of his Soul, he remembered that the little Mermaid had no feet and could not dance. And a great desire came over him, and he said to himself, "It is but a day's journey, and I can return to my love," and he laughed, and stood up in the shallow water, and strode towards the shore.

Related Characters: The Fisherman (speaker), The Soul, The Mermaid
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

And when he had robed himself with his robes, and entered in and bowed himself before the altar, he saw that the altar was covered with strange flowers that never had been seen before […] But the beauty of the white flowers troubled him, and their odour was sweet in his nostrils, and there came another word into his lips, and he spake not of the wrath of God, but of the God whose name is Love. And why he so spake, he knew not […] And in the morning […] he went forth […] and blessed the sea, and all the wild things that are in it […] All the things in God's world he blessed, and the people were filled with joy and wonder.

Related Characters: The Fisherman, The Mermaid, The Priest
Related Symbols: The Flowers
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Fisherman and His Soul LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Fisherman and His Soul PDF

The Mermaid Character Timeline in The Fisherman and His Soul

The timeline below shows where the character The Mermaid appears in The Fisherman and His Soul. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Fisherman and His Soul
The Power of Love Theme Icon
Temptation, Corruption, and Evil Theme Icon
...net, he notes it’s extremely heavy, and then realizes he has accidentally caught a little Mermaid, who is fast asleep. He observes her appearance in detail, and finds her so beautiful... (full context)
The Power of Love Theme Icon
Christianity, Morality, and the Soul Theme Icon
Now the Fisherman catches a huge amount of fish every evening because the Mermaid comes to sing for him. The song she sings is about all the creatures, natural... (full context)
The Power of Love Theme Icon
Christianity, Morality, and the Soul Theme Icon
...him how he can send away his soul so that he can be with the Mermaid. The Priest is appalled at the request because “the soul is the noblest part of... (full context)
Temptation, Corruption, and Evil Theme Icon
...city in which she dances is but a day’s journey.” The Fisherman remembers that the Mermaid has no feet and cannot dance, and feels a great desire come over him. He... (full context)
Temptation, Corruption, and Evil Theme Icon
Transformation and the Doppelganger Theme Icon
...or speak his words. He also expresses his desperate desire to be reunited with the Mermaid. The Soul attempts to distract him with descriptions of other fairer women, but the Fisherman... (full context)
Temptation, Corruption, and Evil Theme Icon
Eventually, realizing that the Fisherman’s love for the Mermaid is stronger than evil, the Soul decides  “I will tempt him now with good, and... (full context)
The Power of Love Theme Icon
...cannot gain entry into the Fisherman’s heart, the Sea-folk bring the dead body of the Mermaid up into the surf. The Fisherman flings himself down upon her corpse, becoming increasingly distressed... (full context)
The Power of Love Theme Icon
Transformation and the Doppelganger Theme Icon
Christianity, Morality, and the Soul Theme Icon
...to bless the sea, but seeing the drowned Fisherman clutching the body of the little Mermaid, refuses to do so. He then tells the people to bury them in an unmarked... (full context)