Title & year of publication: The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888)
Short story selected: The Devoted Friend
Author: Oscar Wilde
Genre & theme: Fairy tale. It’s a story for children while it has brought out some moral issues about friendship — what it meant by friendship, and how some beautiful phrases about friendship could be used for evil purposes, and how a man can take advantage of someone’s innocence to do things for his own benefits.
Main characters: Little Hans, Water-rat, the Duck, Linnet (the story-teller), the Miller and Miller’s wife.
Plot summary: The Miller took an advantage of Little Hans’ innocence to do something good for himself. Little Han’s was overworked and he was drowned to die because of the Miller, but the Miller didn’t seem to feel regretful.
Narrative style: Character’s narration: beginning-middle-ending structure
Opening few pages: Instead of telling the story right away starting from giving some background information about the Little Hans and the Miller, the two main characters of the story, the author pre-told the story by setting a scene with a female duck teaching its kids to stand on their head in the water and other animals talking about the true friendship and what a devoted friend meant. This helps bring the readers into the story by getting involved in the animals’ conversation and listening to Linnet’s narration.
Setting: The setting of this short story is interesting. At the beginning of the story, the scene was set in a pond with some little ducks swimming and learning from their mother. The scene was brought to another place when Linnet started telling the story — a place where Little Hans was living in, with blossoming flowers and pleasant odours in the garden.
Style: The language used throughout the story is very clear and simple yet the messages conveyed in the story are deep and worth for our thinking.
Symbols: Flowers which Little Hans have — they symbolize the property and everything Little Hans has in his life. Without the flowers, he couldn’t make his life. Yet, he was devoted to give everything he owned to his best friend, and this scene strike readers quite a lot by what true friendship means. Wheelbarrow the Miller gave to Little Hans — it symbolizes an excuse that the Miller could use to take advantage on Little Hans. Whenever Little Hans was about to refuse to his request, he made use of it to turn Little Hans down so that Little Hans had no excuse to refuse his request.
Point of view: 3rd person narrator – Linnet, a character in the story. Using a character in the story to tell the ‘real’ story is an effective way to get the readers involved in the story. Because of this strategy, the readers can also associate the messages of the story with the meanings in the animals’ conversation. The narrator can tell the story from an objective viewpoint.
Most impressive character: Little Hans — he is an honest, kind-hearted, unselfish and devoted friend to his so-called best friend ever in his life, the Miller. His immediate help without suspecting if his friend is only taking an advantage on him is very impressive in the story, and his innocence and devotion to friendship have contrasted drastically with the selfishness and evil thoughts of the Miller.
Most impressive feature: The message this story conveys. It strikes me to think about what true friendship means when a friend is actually taking an advantage on me whilst saying all sorts of beautiful phrases about friendship and ‘claim’ how devoted he / she is. It also strikes me to feel how evil a person can be and how beautiful a good man can be.
Least impressive aspect: No comment. This story is wonderful.
The message the story conveys: Not until I came across an incident about true friendship could I have such deep feelings about true friendship conveyed in this story. Being taken an advantage and betrayed never make anybody feel good, yet the betrayal between friends happens nearly every day, and this hurts their hearts a lot. The character of Little Hans, a very kind-hearted, honest and unselfish man that we can never find in the world, is playing a role to reflect the evilness of the Miller, a selfish, ambitious, inconsiderate man, who never gives his best to his friends. The most touching part of the whole story is not the moment that Little Hans died of being drowned in the water, but when he was doing everything good to the Miller without suspecting that he was just taking him advantage and sold all the flowers Little Hans had been growing to earn for his living. What strikes me most to think about the messages conveyed in this story so deeply is that what motivates Little Hans to do everything good to the Miller? Is that really because of his receiving that wheelbarrow, and so he had to do something in return? Little Hans, in addition, is so innocent and nice to his friends. But maybe it is his innocence and honesty that made people betray him. What is so depressing and touching is that Little Hans hadn’t won any true friendship or love from the Miller but his betrayal. Isn’t it a sad ending of this story, and isn’t it sad that there’re really such cases in the world happening every minute or even second in our daily life? For the language, Oscar Wilde has used simple and clear language to convey such deep messages for the young readers to think about, and he is successful in doing this. There is no fancy word in this story, and young readers should find it very easy to interpret the ideas.
Generally speaking, this story is flawless in its organization, plot as well as his development (and climax) of the story. This is a story that young readers must not miss!
My rating of the book: 5 pts. It is a wonderful fairy tale because it deals with some issues as human beings — morality, ideology of being in the society and having true friendship, selfishness of human beings and one’s devotion to love. The topic about friendship is a touching topic for children because in their childhood, they will be meeting different friends, who might be in different kinds. The messages this story conveyed has brought up important issues for the young readers to think about and to bear in mind when meeting friends. The language and style used in the story are effective to conveying the above ideas. Generally speaking, this story was written very successfully.