The Nightingale and the Rose


Oscar Wilde

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The Nightingale and the Rose: Style 1 key example

Explanation and Analysis:

The style of "The Nightingale and the Rose" is very typical of fairy tales, though it's also unique to Oscar Wilde and his own narrative tendencies. The plot-driven nature of the story—with action occurring virtually on every page—is a mainstay of the fairy tale genre, in which stories center around the structure of a problem, quest, and resolution. The fast pacing and style as a short story are also typical features of the form. Furthermore, the poetic and whimsical language throughout is a choice that once again aligns with the kind of stylings normally associated with fairy tales. When the Nightingale and trees speak, for instance, they use poetic descriptions and heightened language. Answering the Nightingale's request for a red rose, the Yellow Rose-Tree shakes its "head" and says:

"My roses are yellow... as yellow as the hair of the mermaiden who sits upon an amber throne, and yellower than the daffodil that blooms in the meadow before the mower comes with his scythe."

Rather than just saying that its roses are yellow, the Yellow Rose-tree launches into similes that reference fantastical mermaids and idyllic pastoral scenes, giving the story a decidedly whimsical tone.

The use of rhythm and sound also adds a poetic style and accentuates the importance of music in the story. When the Nightingale sings to make her sacrifice, the narrator notes:

Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song.

The use of repetition with "bitter, bitter" and "wilder and wilder" gives the passage a rhythmic feeling, while the harsh sounds of these words—particularly the double "t" in "bitter"—reflects the pain being described. The attention to how the story sounds is important, as it suggests that it may have been written with the intention to be read aloud, as fairy tales and children's stories often are.

However, "The Nightingale and the Rose" is also written in a style that is unique to Oscar Wilde. The first few pages are almost entirely written in dialogue, which is very typical of Wilde, who was a renowned conversationalist and primarily wrote plays. The use of irony in the story is also very distinct to Wilde's style, which revels in double-meanings and ambiguous resolutions. The fact that the story does not end with a typical happy ending, offering no clear message to the reader, is typical of Wilde's style, too. Indeed, when writing in a letter about the meaning of "The Nightingale and the Rose," Wilde said, "I like to fancy that there might be many meanings in the Tale." He also noted that he "strove to make it beautiful enough to have many secrets and many answers".