Oscar Wilde was a pretty amazing guy. Not only did he receive firsts at Dublin and Oxford, but he also championed the idea of ‘aestheticism’ a snotty way of saying ‘art for art’s sake’. Considered a legend within ‘arty circles’ he’s known for his plays, short stories and influential novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey. And then, on top of all that, he was jailed for two years for ‘gross indecency’ with other men. For those who are unsure what ‘gross indecency’ actually entails, it basically refers to having sex with men.
Right. Because that was the biggest issue of concern for people living in the 1800s.
The reason I’m bringing up Oscar Wilde’s colourful life story is because he is an author that I wholeheartedly respect. Not only is he downright funny, but his commentary of society is dry, witty and scarily accurate, and he comes up with lines such as “life is far too important to be taken seriously”. (But seriously, do you think people in those days just sat around and thought of memorable quotes? And to think of what we’re stuck with today).
And since I have so much respect for Oscar Wilde I decided to pick up The Happy Prince and Other Stories, a serious of short stories that he wrote specifically for his kids. That’s right, I read a book with a target audience of 10 year olds. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
The Happy Prince and Other Stories is quite similar to ‘Le Petit Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in that while the writing is very basic, and the storyline simple, it also contains very clear messages. For example, ‘The Devoted Friend’ reminds us of the importance of treating friends well, even if you may personally not benefit from it. And ‘The Selfish Giant’ reinforces this, using the hyperbole of never-ending winter.
What I liked about these stories is that at no point did I think “oh, this is for kids and therefore I’m not getting anything from it”. This was completely the opposite. While I love reading about death, destruction, love, war, drug use and who knows how many other very ‘adult’ topics, there’s something very refreshing about reading fairytales from over a century ago. And Oscar Wilde being who he was (awesome), at no point did I feel that the stories were written by an adult…but perhaps just one child telling them to another.
What didn’t I like about these stories? At times I got overwhelmed and a little tired of the elaborate descriptions of Wilde’s writing. Considering he lived his life with the belief that beauty triumphs all, I shouldn’t be surprised, but at times I got sick of the descriptions and wanted more of the story.
Have you read any Oscar Wilde books? What do you think of The Happy Prince? Please let me know!