The Happy Prince By Oscar Wilde Summary Important Questions

The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde

The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde

About the author | Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) is one of the wittiest playwrights and short-story writers of the Anglo-Irish era. He was a distinguished poet, novelist, and critic as well. He earned a great reputation among the most eminent playwrights of the Victorian era. 
He was also famous for his chic and ünique dressing. He was also imprisoned for immoral crimes during the last phase of his life. His fame mostly rested upon his unconventional lifestyle and paradoxical statements in his writings. 


During his prolific literary career, he wrote nine plays, one novel, many poems, short stories, and essays. Wilde was a promoter of the Aesthetic movement, which emphasized aesthetic values more than moral or social themes. 


This doctrine is most clearly summarized in the phrase Art for Art’s sake. Besides literary accomplishments, he is also famous for his wit, flamboyance, and understatements. 

His famous novels included The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, and his famous anthology of short stories named under The Happy Prince and Other Tales were published in 1888. He died of cerebral meningitis (brain tumor) in 1900.


Summary | The Happy Prince

The story is about a statue of a prince that was installed high on a tall column above the city. He was covered with thin leaves of fine gold. He had two bright sapphires in his eyes and a large red ruby shone on his sword-hilt. He was very much admired by everybody.


There was a Swallow who lived near a stream. His friends had gone away to Egypt six weeks before but he had not because he was in love with the most beautiful

reed. The other had told him that his affection was ridiculous and funny because the reed was penniless and too many relations, and she was always enjoying with the wind.


After some days Swallow also decided to go to Egypt. So he started his journey towards Egypt. One night the Swallow happened to pass by the statue of the Happy Prince. He rested at the pedestal the legs of the prince. 


It was captured by thin leaves of fine gold. He had two sapphires in his eyes and a large red ruby glowed on his sword. He saw the prince was shedding tears. Swallow asked the reason for his weeping.
The prince told that when he was alive he did not know what tears were. He lived in a palace, where sorrows and problems were not allowed to another. He was totally cut off from the problems and difficulties of the common people. 
The people of his country used to call him the Happy Prince, and when he died his statue was set up so high that he could see everything, happening in the city. The Happy Prince asked the Swallow to be his messenger. 
Through a small window, the Happy Prince could see a very poor seamstress who was embroidering passion flowers on a satin grown. Her son was suffering from a high fever. They had no food to eat. 
So the Happy Prince requested the Swallow to pluck out one ruby from his sword and give it to them. The next night, the Happy Prince saw a playwright in a cold trying to finish a play but there Was too cold and he was unable to finish the play.
The Happy Prince again requested the Swallow to bring a sapphire from his one eye and give it to him so that he could buy wood for the fire. The next day, he saw a little match-girl whose matches had fallen in the gutter. 
She was crying because her father was going to her if she did not bring home some money. In order to help the girl, the Happy Prince asked the Swallow to pluck out the sapphire from his second eye to give it to her.
The result of this action made him blind and the Swallow had to fly over the city so that he could tell him what he had seen. He saw two kids crying of hunger and a lot of poverty. So the Happy Prince decided to take out all the golden leaves to give them to the poor children.


At last, the Swallow knew that he was going to die because of intense cold

weather. So he decided to stay with the Happy Prince. Swallow asked the Prince to kiss on his lips, as he loved him. At the same time, Swallow fell down on his feet and died. 


At that moment a sound of crack was heard inside the statue. It was the Prince’s, leaden heart. Early, the next morning, the Mayor of the city saw the statue. He said it was no more beautiful. He ordered to pull it down and melted in a but the broken leaden heart did not melt. 


It was thrown away on a heap of garbage where the dead Swallow was also lying. Both get a reward from God. God told one of His angels to bring Him the most precious things from the city. 


The angel took Him the dead bird and the leaden heart of a prince. God said: You have rightly chosen, For in my garden of paradise this little bird shall sing and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me.


Critical Aspects of the story

Background of the story

Oscar Wilde was an Irish writer. In this story, he represented the true picture of victorian society. He threw light on the basic problems of the Victorian age, such as poverty, hypocrisy, and exploitation. 


The main idea of this story is that love and sacrifice are the two most valuable things in the eyes of God. People should love one another and sacrifice their materialistic things for the benefit of others.


Title of the story

The title of the story is ironic. the Happy Prince was the most unhappy and miserable as he often wept over the miseries of his ex-subjects. He was in fact reaping what he had sown in his life. During his life, he remained quite aloof and detached from the problems of the people. 


He was called the Happy Prince by his courtier who was only the real cause of keeping him ignorant from the life of his countrymen. It was perhaps at the end of the story, the prince became happy after atoning his sins by his sincere love and sacrifice for humanity at large. 


The prince had become happy after achieving spiritual salvation through the realization of his superficial worldly life and after death by sympathizing with the poor and doing everything for their relief within his means.

Different characters represent various sections of society


In the story, almost every character represents a different character of Victorian society. Firstly the Happy Prince represents a typical ruler who is totally detached from the common run of people and gives himself over to a life of pleasure and enjoyment.


The Mathematician represents a proud person. Mayor and Councillors represent selfish, proud, and ugly rulers of society. The Swallow represents those sincere people of society who devote their lives and energies to others.


They do everything out of pure love, and who are loyal to the good aspects of humanity to the end of their life. The Seamstress, her son, the poor young dramatist, and the match girl are the characters representing the poor and deprived sections of society.


The Theme of the Story


The theme of the story is the achievement of real happiness. It is achieved by sharing the woes and sufferings of common men and women. The pursuit of superficial pleasure gives only temporary satisfaction.


Whereas the pursuit of achieving spiritual salvation through love and sacrifice gives unending and lasting pleasure. The rich people who remain devoted to the luxuries of life are bound to bemoan and weep afterward. The wages of sin are sorrows and sufferings like that of the Happy Prince.


The marvelous and good

According to the writer, the most marvelous thing in the world is the suffering of men and women, and there is no mystery as great as misery? And the real remedy of human suffering and misery in the world is to sympathize with others and help them out of their troubles.


Values of men and God

The values in the eyes of worldly people are based on a superficial view of things. But the values in the eyes of God are real. The ugly statue and the dead body of the Swallow are useless objects and are thrown on the dirt heap but the same objects are chosen by the angel of God as the two best things of the great city.

Physical and Spiritual Development

In the story, we notice that as the statue becomes outwardly uglier the prince is spiritually elevated, till at last he’ sacrifices all his gold and decorative precious stones and achieves the heights of spiritual beauty. What appears physically harmful is spiritually useful. 


Likewise, the Happy Prince deteriorated himself spiritually. The Swallow also attains perfect beauty by sacrificing his life for the love of the prince. In each case, love and sacrifice are the life-saving forces. 


The writer has given the idea that the reality of what is good and beautiful is not observable with the physical eye. It can be visualized with its actual beauty or ugliness only with spiritual insight.


Political and social criticism


The story is a political and social criticism by the author. The rulers whether they are kings or politicians always’ aim at leading a luxurious life The politicians

make tall and false claims but never fulfill them. 


They bemoan and express noble like the Happy Prince when they are deprived of power. The sincere and honest workers whose hearts beat for the welfare of the common public are like the Swallow who sacrifice their energy and ability till the end of their life. 


The common man is generally simple. He begins to worship his rulers as he is pursued by false propaganda. The image of rulers is falsely beautified as that of the Happy Prince in its statue.

Important Questions and Answers


Question 1

What kind of life did Oscar Wild create in the Happy Prince?

Show that the short story titled The Happy Prince is a fantasy.

The Happy Prince starts as a fantasy but ends with a moral lesson. Discuss.




Oscar Wilde was the greatest Irish novelist and short story writer. His chief subjects were the problems of the Victorian age, such as poverty, misery, suffering, hypocrisy, and exploitation. The Happy Prince is a fantasy with a fairy-tale atmosphere.

Fantasy or fairy tale is an unreal story. In the story, the objects like the statue, the characters like Swallow and the reed were made to think and speak like human beings. Basically Oscar Wilde has written this story for his own sons but it has a great moral lesson for the grown-ups.

The writer wants to say that spiritual beauty is more valuable and attractive than physical beauty. Taking pity on the needy, helping the helpless, being charitable to all, and serving human beings are the greatest virtues.

The main purpose of human beings is to serve humanity. At the end of the story, the writer had explained the moral lesson. God orders his angel to go to the city and fetch the two most precious things. The angel brings Him the leaden heart of the prince and the dead bird.

You have rightly chosen, or in my garden of paradise this little bird shall sing for, evermore, and in my city of gold, the Happy Prince shall praise me. God loves the charitable and rewards them with His special blessings. Love needs and this is the moral lesson of this story.

Question 2

How did the Swallow help the people?

How is the Swallow in Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince fair as a friend?

Discuss the help of the Happy Prince through the Swallow.



In The Happy Prince, the Happy Prince sacrificed his materialistic things for the

Poor and the Swallow sacrificed his life for the Happy Prince. One night a Swallow took shelter between the feet of the Happy Prince. He was astonished to see that the Happy Prince was weeping.

When he asked the reason, the Happy Prince requested him to stay with him and helped the poor and needy. So on the request, he stayed and took off a ruby from the hilt of the Happy Prince’s sword and gave it to a poor seamstress, whose son was ill and asking for oranges.

The next night, Swallow took a sapphire from the eye of the Happy Prince to the starving playwright. Again, the Happy Prince requested the Swallow to gave his, another sapphire eye to a poor match girl.

Although Swallow was not agreed to pluck the second eye, yet on the request of the Happy Prince was forced to give the sapphire eye to the poor match girl. When the Happy Prince gave away both the eyes, he became blind so Swallow decided to remain with him throughout his life.

After that, the Happy Prince requested the Swallow to fly over the city and informed him about the problems of the poor. Swallow flew over the city and told him about the miseries and sufferings of the poor people.

In this way the Happy Prince requested the Swallow to remove his gold cover and gave it to the poor. The Swallow took off the gold covering leaf by leaf and gave it to the poor. In this way, the Happy Prince and the Swallow helped the poor.


Question 3

Discuss the basic theme of the story.



The theme of the story is the achievement of happiness. It is achieved by sharing the woes and sufferings of common men and women. The pursuits of superficial pleasure give only temporary satisfaction, whereas the pursuit of achieving through love and sacrifice gives unending and lasting pleasure.

The rich people who remain devoted to life, are bound to and weep afterward. In this world, a man may avoid reality by keeping himself blind to surrounding life but one day he comes to know the true picture of this temporary world.

A man of royal status like the Happy Prince remains generally surrounded by his followers, who sing his praises for his misdeeds. But when the reality is revealed they have to weep and repay for their sins. The main idea of the happy prince is that love and sacrifice are the most valuable things in the eyes of God.

Question 4

Happy Prince sees best when he has no eyes to see. Explain.

Write a note on the tragic end of the Happy Prince and Swallow.



When the prince had become blind of both the. eyes, the good-natured Swallow decided to live with him forever. He told the prince strange things about strange lands. The prince of the story said to the Swallow, you tell me of things, but more marvelous than anything is the suffering of men and women. 

There is no mystery so great as misery Actually, the prince wanted to know about the misery of the people so that he could help them. The Swallow flew over the city and told the prince about the sufferings of the common people.

The prince asked the Swallow to take off the gold from him leaf by leaf and give it to the poor. The Swallow picked off all the gold till the happy prince looked dull and ugly. The snow was followed by frost and the poor little Swallow grew colder and colder.

He flew to the prince’s shoulder kissed him and died at his feet. Something broke inside the statue. It was the leaden heart of the prince. The next day the mayor of the city came there and ordered that the ugly statue of the prince should be removed from that place.

The statue was melted in the furnace but the heart did not melt. It was thrown on the trash heap near the dead body of the Swallow. God ordered His angel to go to the city and fetch the two most precious things.

The angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird. You have rightly chosen, said, God. For in My garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing forevermore and in My city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise Me.


About the Author

Anila Ibrahim

An educationist, web content writer, equipped with an LLB and a Master’s degree in English Literature, as well as a Master of Philosophy in Entrepreneurship. I have a comprehensive understanding of both the English language and the educational landscape. This academic background empowers Anila to deliver content that is not only informative but also thoroughly researched.

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