What Themes Are Expressed in “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde?

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Themes expressed in “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde include sacrifice, mercy, repression, compassion, love, poverty and riches. The fairy tale focuses on the statue of the Happy Prince who watches over a town and weeps as some townsfolk suffer in poverty.

The opening of the story shows people repressing their true feelings when they look at the statue. One woman tells a boy not to weep because the Happy Prince would never cry. A man who passes by the statue wishes he was as happy as the prince in the statue, but he dares not express that sentiment in public.

As a way to show mercy and compassion, the Happy Prince statue enlists the help of a small swallow who stops in the town on the way to Egypt. For the first errand, a mother weeps because her son wants oranges to overcome his sickness. The statue instructs the swallow to pluck the ruby out of the statue’s sword and fly to the impoverished woman’s house so she can buy food.

By the end of the story, the bird dies because he does not fly south for the winter, but the impoverished townspeople are better because of the deeds the Happy Prince undertook. The leaders of the town note the shabbiness of the statue after the swallow plucked out all the gems and tore off all the gold. God rewards both the bird and the statue in heaven for their compassion.