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Character Analysis of The Student in 'The Nightingale and the Rose' by Oscar Wilde
In this prose, the character of the student represents the common civilians of the Victorian society. From the beginning to the end of the story, the student is full of head knowledge but lacks practical intelligence. Oscar Wilde has not used a specific name to this character but used a common name as “The Student” to resemble most of the students of the Victorian society.
The civilians of the Victorian society were full of head knowledge but lacks practical knowledge. They knew all the facts written in books but they failed to understand the emotions of the human hearts. By considering head knowledge as the best, they ignored arts and human emotions and they viewed them as cheap. This Victorian education failed to produce a balanced individual. It just produced an imbalanced individual who is full of head knowledge but lacks heart knowledge. It created a person who has no ability to appreciate aesthetics and nature but they knew just to appreciate the knowledge received by books. In this prose, The Student is a character who represents all those qualities accepted by the Victorian society.
At the beginning of the prose, we see The Student as an unpractical young boy who laments for a red rose without making a practical action.
“She said that she would dance with me if I bring her a red rose, but all in my garden there is no red rose”
Further, the above phrase reveals the inability of the student to understand the materialistic nature of the professor’s daughter who he is in love with. He has no knowledge to understand that it is not true love. True love depends on selfless sacrifice towards each other. True love does not depend on materialism. But, the Victorians failed to understand what true love is. The student is foolish to misunderstand the materialistic nature of the professor’s daughter as love. Also, The student is a character who is not strong to face a challenge. From the line,
““No red rose in all my garden!” he cried”
We see him as a person who has no wisdom to face a challenge but keeps lamenting. The Victorians were full of head knowledge but they were foolish to understand that everything is not written in books. They did not pass to understand that books cannot root the heart knowledge in a person’s heart. The below lines reveal about it furthermore,
“Ah, on what little things does happiness depend! I have read all that the wise men have written and all the philosophy are mine, yet for a want of red rose is my life made wretched”
These lines show how the student laments as there is no use of book knowledge in this situation.
Moreover, we see the student as a day dreamer. He dreams of the professor’s daughter. He dreams of the ball of the prince. He dreams of the beauty of the girl and the way of making love with her. The following lines uttered by him prove it.
“The Prince gives a ball to-morrow night and my love will be of the company. If I bring her a red rose she will dance with me till dawn. If I bring her a red rose, I shall hold her in my arms, and she will lean her head upon my shoulder, and her hand will be clasped in mine. But there is no red rose in my garden, so I shall sit lonely, and she will pass me by. She will have no heed of me, and my heart will break.”
“The musicians will sit in their gallery and play upon their stringed instruments, and my love will dance to the sound of the harp and the violin. She will dance so lightly that her feet will not touch the floor, and the courtiers in their gay dresses will throng round her. But with me she will not dance, for I have no red rose to give her”
While the above lines reveal the dreaming nature of the student about the ball, the girl and making love with her, It shows that he is just a day dreamer without taking any action. Even though what he should do is finding a red rose, he keeps on dreaming and lamenting.
Furthermore, the student shows the qualities of the Victorian society to disregard nature and arts. The Victorians failed to admire the nature as they knew only to admire the things written in books. Arts were selfish for them and they did not give any value for the aesthetics. Even though they saw something attractive, it has a scientific value in their eyes but not as artistic value. As the student is a representative of the Victorian society, he shows all these characteristics from the bellowing utterances.
“She has form that cannot be denied to her; but has she got feeling? I am afraid not. In fact, she is like most artists; she is all style, without any sincerity. She would not sacrifice herself for others. She thinks merely of music, and everybody knows that the arts are selfish. Still, it must be admitted that she has some beautiful notes in her voice. What a pity it is that they do not mean anything, or do any practical good.”
“Why, what a wonderful piece of luck; here is a red rose! I have never seen any rose like it in all my life. It is so beautiful that I am sure it has a long Latin name”
The student believes only about concepts which can be proven scientifically. His head full of bookish knowledge was not as assistance for him to understand what love is. It was not helpful to understand the sacrifice done by the Nightingale. He did not believe in love, sacrifice and nature but he highly appreciated science, logical subjects and philosophy.
“It is quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.”
The Victorians disregarded nature and the beauty of it. They did not pass to understand the human hearts. Oscar Wilde expresses it through the behavior of the student. Wilde shows the value given from the society to the nature through the student’s behavior of the throwing the red rose into the gutter.
“He threw the rose into the street, where it fell into the gutter, and a cart-wheel went over it.”
Moreover, we see the student not as a person in the higher social class. His poverty is shown by Wilde mentioning,
“He went into his room, and lay down on his little pallet-bed”
However, even though the student shows such low classed qualities who sleeps on a ‘little pallet bed’ without having ‘silver buckles’, it seems to be that he has an ambition to reach the higher social class through the professor’s daughter by dancing with her. It is visualized as class consciousness and self-promotion quality of the student which is common to all Victorians other than true love.
With all these negative characteristics of him, we see him as a handsome and a very attractive young boy through this prose. The Nightingale expresses his attractiveness as,
“His hair is dark as the hyacinth-blossom, and his lips are red as the rose of his desire”
As a summary, the student is a common Victorian individual who shows the characteristics such as unpractical, foolish, theoretical, insensitive for the nature, full of book knowledge but no heart knowledge. He is also a young boy in the lower social class who is affected by poverty.