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Book Review: The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde

The Happy Prince is a story of a statue and a Swallow bird. The Swallow bird is flying to reach Egypt where his friends are awaiting him on the Nile River.

While flying continuously for much time, the Swallow feels tired and reaches a city where he thinks of taking some rest. He finds out one tall statue and goes there to sit between the legs. Drop after drop falls on him from above, he looks up in the sky but finds no cloud. The drops of water were the tears of the statue. Upon asking, the bird comes to know that the statue is of a happy prince who never saw sorrow in his life and when he died his people built a statue of him. It is a fine statue with gold leafs, sapphires in his eyes, and ruby in the hilt of the sword.

The prince says that when he was alive he was kept away from sadness and worries and miseries of the world. He died without seeing any sorrow in his life. Well, now when he is standing in the middle of the city, he can see the pain of the people. The prince sees a seamstress and her ill son, who is asking for oranges. But the misery is that she cannot afford oranges for him as she is poor. The prince asks the bird to take out the ruby from the hilt of his sword and offer it to that poor woman. The bird performs the task as asked. He then requests the bird to stay with him one more night, he agrees. Next, a writer is struggling hard to complete his drama but he is not able to do that in cold as he has no wood for fire. He is poor. The prince asks the bird to take out one sapphire from his eye and give it to that writer. The Swallow does that.

The bird stays one more night with the statue. This time, the statue sees a girl selling fire matches is sad because she has lost her matches in the gutter. The prince asks the bird to remove the sapphire from his second eye and give it to her. Upon receiving the sapphire, the girl jumps up in sheer joy and leaves for home. As the prince goes blind by donating both sapphires from his eyes, the bird gives up his flight for Egypt and decides to stay with the statue. Almost every evening the bird flies over the city and reports to the prince about the pain and the privation of poor and orphans and beggars. The prince asks the bird to donate all gold leafs from his body to poor people of his state.

Over a time, as the winter ensues, in the cold the statue looks faded and dull and grey. The bird realizes that he is going to die, thus, the statue asks the bird to kiss on its lips as a farewell. After the kiss, the bird falls dead in the feet of the statue. At that instance, the heart of the statue built of lead metal breaks in two parts. In the morning, the mayor and some of his councils find the statue in battered condition. They say that the statue is neither looking attractive nor useful. They pull the statue down. They try to melt the heart at a furnace but it does not melt away. So they throw away the statue on a dust heap along with the dead bird.

Next, the God asks one of his angels to bring two most precious things from the city. The angel brings the dead bird and the statue of the prince. God appreciates the choice of the angel and says that bird will sing more in his paradise and the happy prince shall praise him in the city of gold.

The conclusion of the story is that a true and good prince/king will never tolerate the suffering of his people. He will do everything to make them happy. Ironically, in this story the prince never got a chance to see the suffering of people when he was alive, thus after his death with the help of that bird, he tries to help the people of his country.


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