The Nightingale and the Rose

by

Oscar Wilde

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The Red Rose Symbol Analysis

The Red Rose Symbol Icon

Red roses are traditionally associated with romance, so it is not surprising that Wilde uses one to symbolize true love in "The Nightingale and the Rose." Its significance, however, shifts over the context of the story. At first, the rose appears to represent the Student's love for the girl, since her refusal to dance with him unless he brings her the flower makes the flower into a piece of evidence that his feelings are genuine. By sacrificing her life to bring the Student a rose, the Nightingale further underscores this idea that the flower is an expression of true love; in fact, the Rose quite literally comes from the Nightingale's heart, because she uses her blood to stain it red. In the end, however, neither the Student nor the girl is able to appreciate the rose's symbolic significance. The girl, for instance, compares the rose unfavorably to the jewels she has received from another suitor, while the Student reacts angrily when the girl goes back on her promise to dance with him. This suggests that neither character ever truly saw the rose as a symbol of love, but rather as a kind of currency to buy someone's affection.

The Red Rose Quotes in The Nightingale and the Rose

The The Nightingale and the Rose quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Red Rose. 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:
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of The Nightingale and the Rose published in 2008.
The Nightingale and the Rose Quotes

Here at last is a true lover…Night after night have I sung of him, though I knew him not: night after night have I told his story to the stars, and now I see him. His hair is as dark as the hyacinth-blossom, and his lips are as red as the rose of his desire.

Related Characters: The Nightingale (speaker), The Student
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Surely Love is a wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds, and dearer than fine opals. Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it, nor is it set forth in the market-place. It may not be purchased of the merchants, nor can it be weighed out in the balance for gold.

Related Characters: The Nightingale (speaker), The girl
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

"He is weeping for a red rose," said the Nightingale.

"For a red rose?" they cried; "how very ridiculous!" and the little Lizard, who was something of a cynic, laughed outright.

Related Characters: The Nightingale (speaker), The Lizard (speaker), The Student
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

If you want a red rose…you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart's-blood. You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine.

Related Characters: The Rose-tree (speaker), The Nightingale
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

The Student looked up from the grass and listened, but he could not understand what the Nightingale was saying to him, for he only knew the things that are written down in books.

Related Characters: The Nightingale, The Student
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb.

Related Characters: The Nightingale
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

What a wonderful piece of luck…here is a red rose! I have never seen any rose like it in all my life. It is so beautiful that I am sure it has a long Latin name.

Related Characters: The Student (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Nightingale and the Rose LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Nightingale and the Rose PDF

The Red Rose Symbol Timeline in The Nightingale and the Rose

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Red Rose appears in The Nightingale and the Rose. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Nightingale and the Rose
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
Materialism, Intellectualism, and Emotion Theme Icon
...who has said she will not dance with him unless he brings her a red rose. While the Nightingale watches, the Student begins to cry, lamenting the fact that all his... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
Materialism, Intellectualism, and Emotion Theme Icon
...how the girl will pass him by at the Prince's ball unless he finds a rose for her. Meanwhile, the Nightingale reflects on how powerful and priceless a force love is.... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
...of the garden to speak to the White Rose-tree. She asks him for a red rose, but he tells her that he has none, and directs her to his brother by... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
When the Nightingale states her case to the Red Rose-tree, he confirms that his roses are red, but says that he cannot grow one in winter. The Nightingale presses him,... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
...the thorn. The Nightingale continues to sing, this time about mature, romantic love, and the rose begins to turn pink. (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
...weakening, she sings about sacrificial and undying love as all of nature listens on. The rose reddens, and the Rose-tree tries to tell the Nightingale that she has succeeded. Sadly, however,... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
Materialism, Intellectualism, and Emotion Theme Icon
Hours later, the Student looks outside his window and sees the rose. Delighted, he says that it is the most beautiful flower he has ever seen, and... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Materialism, Intellectualism, and Emotion Theme Icon
The Student plucks the rose and takes it to the girl at her father's (the Professor's) house. When he arrives,... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Materialism, Intellectualism, and Emotion Theme Icon
In response, the Student huffs that the girl is "ungrateful," and throws the rose into the street to be run over by a cart. The girl retorts that the... (full context)