Themes and Literary Techniques Found in The Nightingale and The Rose

The story “The Nightingale and the Rose” is written by OscarWilde. It was published in 1888, in a collection of children’s story named as, The Happy Prince and the Other Tales. Although it is a fairy-tale, the massage it carries is universal and grave. Let’s find out some major themes and techniques found in the text.


You may watch the video on themes or continue reading:

Theme of love

The story unveils the unconditional and selfless love of the nightingale who sacrifices her life on behalf of love. It shows that true love needs sacrifices and commitment. Further, the hollowness of the conditional love is explored through the character of the young student and his fiancée.

Reason vs. passion

Reasoning belongs to logic and education where passion goes with strong emotions. Through the character of the young student, the reader can explore an immature character whose drive to passion is swift and his analytics about the situation which he was in is rather pessimistic.


The writer seems critical about the contemporary education which nourished more head than the heart. It reveals that theoretical education creates an unbalanced individual. It further says the necessity of aesthetic values to nourish emotional and humanistic values in people.

Human hypocrisy and deceit

Through the character of the young student and his fiancée, writer introduces duality and deceitfulness in people. Though the young man craves for a red rose, his necessity is driven by his passion not by the true love. Whereas the girl breaks her promise before materialistic gains showing her deceitfulness and hypocrisy.

Materialism versus spirituality

Literary Techniques.


The language of the story is very descriptive and full of figures of speech; yet the choice of words is fairly simple, related to feelings and natural elements. The story is intended to children readership. Therefore the overall understanding of the text is not hard. Interestingly, the author has capitalised common nouns such as: the Student, the Professor, Love, Power, Life, the Nightingale, the Tree… etc. giving them a fixed identity and personifying objects and animals. There are no dialog lines, instead writer has used direct speech in quotations.

Fairy-tale Elements

·        Good character and evil characters.
·        Royalty vs poverty.
·        Magic and enchantments.
·        Frequent use of personification.
·        Use of symbols and motifs.
·        Vivid and simple narration.


·        Nightingale -  symbolizes goodness and virtue and sacrifice, and
·        The Rose - true love and true art.
·        The oak tree – wisdom
·        The girl - materialism and hypocrisy.
·        The student - cynicism as he can’t appreciate beauty.
·        Lizard – cynic, a person who sees little or no good in anything
·        Butterfly – curiosity
·        Daisy – purity
·        Cartwheel – materialism


Throughout the story, the reader can visualise the happenings, as the author used comparison as the major technique, the reason may be the collection of short stories is intended for children readership. 

ex:          “ as yellow as the hair of the mermaiden who sits upon an amber throne, and yellower than the daffodil that blooms in the meadow”
“ and he threw the rose into the street, where it fell into the gutter, and a cart-wheel went over it”


Giving human qualities to things and animals. 

Ex:          “the tree shook its head.”
“Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it,”
“The white moon heard it,”


In the story, the most frequently used stylistic device is comparison: using ‘as’ and ‘like’ or ‘than’. 

Ex:          “Passion has made his face like pale ivory”
“as white as the foam of the sea”
“It is more precious than emeralds,”


 Purposeful exaggeration of something to emphasize something.

Ex:          “She will dance so lightly that her feet will not touch the floor”
“Here is the reddest rose in all the world.”


Order of the words reversed to achieve a particular effect. 

Ex:          She passed through the grove like a shadow and like a shadow she sailed across the garden.”


Repetition of consonant sound to create a weak or smooth sound effect. 

Ex:          She swept over the garden like a shadow. (repetition of S sound – shows the swiftness of her movement)

Although the story intended for children, Wilde has crafted the story loaded with underlying meanings. Whenever you read the story, you may find new shapes and shades under his wonderful lines. The text is loaded with figurative language enriching his motto: ‘art is for art’s sake’ – that means his creations are artifacts which engraved with the beautiful gems of art.

There are more techniques which are not mentioned, can you find them? So, comment them for the enlightenment of the readers. Share this article if you find it useful.  

You may also like to read:

Material Love vs Spiritual Love,The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wild.

Summary of The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde.

Character of Young Student in The Nightingale and the Rose  

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