Criticize the story ‘The Happy Prince’.
Describe in your own words social and moral evils highlighted by Oscar Wilde.
What kind of attitude Oscar Wilde criticize in the story?
Answer: The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde is romantic story that has been on the style of fairy tale. It is didactic (moral) in purpose. The writer has not only emphasized the need of selfless love and the spirit of sacrifice in the materialistic age, he has also pointed out certain social evils and wrong standards of judgment. Oscar himself states that the story is a criticism on the poverty, hypocrisy and exploitation of Victorian Age. In the Victorian Age, people revised their concept of morality and God. The industrial revolution made them martial in their outlook. The writer has also pointed out certain social evils and wrong standards of judgment. It is good piece of satire on the ruling class of society who confess to be servants of the public but actually have nothing in common with the common people.
We see elements of satire in following points.
Firstly, the writer criticized the Town councilors who praised the golden statue of the Prince just to show an artistic taste. However, when the Happy Prince was deprived its gold and precious stones, they consider themselves worthy of that honor and fame.
Secondly, the writer also ridicules political authority by the rulers. When the Mayor found a Swallow lying dead at the feet of the Happy Prince, he declared his intention of proclaiming an order that birds are not allowed to die there.
Thirdly, the Prince didn’t taste the bitterness of hard life. The seamstress, the poor dramatist, the match girl belong to common section of society. The Prince didn’t try to know the miserable conditions in which the poor people live. He led a life of vanity, exploitation and hypocrisy. The writer points out that living condition have remained through all periods of history.
The story then has a beautiful socialistic background. It shows poverty and suffering of society. It shows the division of society into the haves and have-nots. It hints at the need for equal distribution of wealth or at least justice with all having equal chances of progress.