The Nightingale and the Rose


Oscar Wilde

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Themes and Colors
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
Materialism, Intellectualism, and Emotion Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Nightingale and the Rose, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Love and Sacrifice

From start to finish, "The Nightingale and the Rose" is a story about the nature of love. Love is what the Student claims to feel for the girl, and it is also what inspires the Nightingale to sacrifice her life to create a red rose; doing so, she thinks, will help the Student win his sweetheart's affection. The fact that neither the Student nor the girl appreciates the Nightingale's sacrifice, however, complicates the…

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Art and Idealism

Oscar Wilde is likely the most famous British writer associated with Aestheticism, a late 19th-century movement that championed "art for art's sake." In contrast to those who argued that the arts should address social issues or impart moral lessons, the Aesthetics contended that art's sole purpose was to be beautiful. This question about the nature and role of art forms the backdrop to "The Nightingale and the Rose," with the Nightingale and the Student embodying…

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Materialism, Intellectualism, and Emotion

Despite its fairy-tale setting, "The Nightingale and the Rose" engages with the real-world debates taking place in the late 1800s. The Enlightenment of the preceding century had inspired great confidence in humanity's ability to solve scientific, practical, and even moral problems with reason. Rapid industrialization (and the wealth it generated) lent further credence to these ideas by "proving" the success of 18th-century scientific innovation and free-market economics. Nevertheless, there was significant pushback against these trends…

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