The Happy Prince

by

Oscar Wilde

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Themes and Colors
Beauty and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Compassion Theme Icon
Poverty, Inequality, and Greed Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Happy Prince, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Beauty and Morality

Oscar Wilde was notably committed to aestheticism and the aesthetic movement—associated with the mantra “Art for Art’s sake”—and this theme recurs throughout his literary works. The titular protagonist of “The Happy Prince” is himself a statue meant to decorate the city, and through him, the story explores the relationship between art and usefulness. However, “The Happy Prince” also demonstrates the darker sides of society’s obsession with beauty—that is, the extreme poverty and social inequality required…

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Love and Compassion

Many of Oscar Wilde’s works contain allusions to homosexuality, in large part due to his own sexual preferences—he was famously put on trial and imprisoned in 1895 for his homosexuality, as Victorian society at the time was still notoriously conservative. In “The Happy Prince,” love—arguably including homosexual love—forms the central motivations for the protagonists. In contrast, narcissism drives the story’s main antagonists and leads people to make judgements about others—judgements that benefit their own worldview…

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Poverty, Inequality, and Greed

Oscar Wilde was a proclaimed socialist and lived in London during a time when millions of the impoverished residents risked dying of starvation. At other points, he wrote texts like “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” outlining anarchistic beliefs and a criticism of charity as opposite to a socialist reordering of society. According to “The Happy Prince,” the majority of humanity leads lives of great misery and suffering in order to support the greed of…

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Religion

Wilde was a dedicated Christian throughout his life, and religious themes run through “The Happy Prince.” The titular Happy Prince represents a Christlike figure who supports analogous teachings to those of Christian parables. Much like Christ in the Bible, the Happy Prince chooses to sacrifice himself to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and downtrodden. Ultimately, God rewards the Prince in paradise, confirming both the narrative’s religious subtext and the Christian roots of the Happy…

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