Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince: A Comprehensive Summary and Analysis

The Happy Prince Summary

The Happy Prince is one of the most celebrated works of the 19th Century by Irish author Oscar Wilde. This classic, timeless tale has been cherished by readers of all ages for over a century. In this article, we will explore the themes and literary devices used in this masterpiece of Victorian literature and will delve into the summary, analysis, symbolism, and character analysis of the story to provide a deeper understanding of this poignant and deeply moving story.


The Happy Prince is a tale about the statue of a prince who once was a real prince who lived a life of luxury and indulgence. He was immortalized as a magnificent statue in his city after his death. The statue is made of lead but covered all over with fine gold. The statue’s eyes are sapphires and in the hilt of the sword he holds, is a bright red Ruby. The statue stands high above the city and is admired by the people living there because he looks “happy” and “like angel”. Despite his opulent appearance he was unhappy.

One day a swallow passing through the town, landed on the statue’s shoulder and learned of his sorrows after striking up a conversation with him. This bird was going to Egypt for the winter but didn’t join his companions and delayed his migration in order to wait for a Reed for whom he had developed feelings. “The Happy Prince” told the Swallow that from his high pedestal he can see the sufferings of the people in the city which he was completely unaware of while he was alive. He tells the bird that he wishes to help the poor and destitute people of the city and asks for his help for the cause. The Swallow, who is initially reluctant, eventually agrees to his request and spends nights following his instructions. The Prince instructs the Swallow to take the precious gems and gold that adorn his statue and give them to the poor and needy people of his city. When the Swallow tells the Prince about his experiences and the people he has helped, the Prince was moved to tears. The Swallow who had grown fond of the Prince was helping him in his mission, going beyond his own capacity. Together they distributed the treasures to the needy but as the winters got severe, the Swallow succumbed to it and died and at the same time, the lead heart of the Prince was cracked into two and he too died.

The next day the Mayor and the town councillors notice the now ugly statue of the Prince and the dead bird at the foot of the statue. They decide to melt the statue to make a new one (of their own). They find the broken lead heart useless and throw it on a dust-heap along with the Swallow’s body. But God, who was watching from above, instructs one of his angels to bring him the two most precious things from the city. He announces that the bird will sing in the garden of heaven forever and the happy Prince will praise God in his ‘city of gold’. In the end, both – the Prince and the bird, were well rewarded for their selfless service by The God Almighty.


The Happy Prince story has deep poignant symbolism and revolves around the central theme of selflessness and compassion. The main characters of the story, the Prince and the Swallow, pose as the epitomy of empathy and sacrifice. The story shows us that true happiness can only be achieved through acts of kindness and compassion towards others. The Prince’s sacrifice in giving up his precious adornments to help the poor, inspires the little bird to follow his path and ultimately this leads to their own redemption and happiness. Both exemplify the virtues of selflessness and empathy. The story also highlights the stark inequalities that exist in this world and shows us that it is our duty to help the less fortunate. Another important theme of the story is the power of friendship. The Swallow, a small and insignificant bird, becomes the Prince’s devoted companion and ultimately sacrifices his life while helping him completing his mission. It is because of the little Swallow’s help that the Prince was able to accomplish his mission of helping the poor.

Literary Devices

Wilde’s use of literary devices in The Happy Prince is masterful. The anthropomorphization of the prince and the swallow allows for a deeper emotional connection with the reader. The imagery of the precious stones and gold leaf creates a vivid and opulent backdrop against which the story’s themes and motifs play out. The personification of the town and the weather adds to the story’s fairytale-like quality, while the repetition of phrases such as “the winter has come” adds to the story’s emotional weight.

Character Analysis

The first protagonist in The Happy Prince is the statue of a prince who despite his regal appearance is deeply unhappy and unfulfilled until he discovered the joy of selfless service. The ‘happy’ in his name is totally ironic as the pleasures and happiness he had experienced while he was alive was all false because he was ignorant of the miseries of the people of his city. His exterior was very beautiful and he seemed to be very happy and angelic from outside but all was superficial. He discovers the true meaning of happiness by sacrificing his beautiful embellishments to help the poor and in the end becomes a ‘happy’ Prince in its true sense.

The second protagonist of the story is the Swallow, a bird who wants to join his companions in the sunny land of Egypt, but has delayed his trip due to his love for a Reed. By chance, he meets ‘the happy Prince’ and stays back in the town to help him deliver his gems and gold to the people in need. Like the Prince, the Swallow was also not selfless from the beginning as he repeatedly shows his desire to leave the city and join his companions. But the power of friendship makes him understand the value of doing good. He ultimately understands the true meaning of love and compassion. The sacrifices of the prince help the swallow grow and he also sacrifices his life while helping others and this ultimately secures him a place in the heaven for evermore. The Swallow stayed by the Prince’s side even though he knew that his weak little body cannot stand the harsh winter. He learnt compassion from the prince and ascended to the heaven.

The other characters play a brief role in the story who were all helped by the happy Prince and the Swallow. And towards the end, God appears, to reward them for their compassion and sacrifices, and promises them eternity in paradise.


This beautiful timeless story continues to capture the hearts and imaginations of readers around the world. Through its memorable characters, powerful themes, and rich symbolism, the story encourages us to be more selfless, compassionate, and kind. In today’s world, where there is so much division and conflict, The Happy Prince can serve as a reminder that we are all connected, and that our actions can have a profound impact on others. By embodying the spirit of the happy prince, we can work towards a more compassionate and just society. The Happy Prince’s precious legacy is a testament to the enduring power of great storytelling and the importance of literature in our lives, and it is sure to continue to captivate and inspire readers for generations to come.


Most frequent questions and answers

The moral of The Happy Prince is that true happiness comes from helping others and that one should always show empathy and kindness to those in need. The story teaches us to look beyond ourselves and to consider the well-being of others. The selflessness of the Happy Prince and the swallow serve as an example of how we can all make a difference in the world by showing compassion and generosity. Additionally, the precious things in the story, such as the leaden heart and the dead swallow, represent the value of kindness and how it can lead to eternal happiness. Ultimately, The Happy Prince encourages us to be kind and selfless, even in the face of difficult circumstances.

The Happy Prince is still popular today because its themes and messages are timeless and relevant, and because it is a well-written and beautifully crafted story.

The Happy Prince is a beloved figure in the city. The courtiers call him ‘The Happy Prince’ because of his cheerful disposition and bright, radiant appearance. He is made of pure gold and adorned with precious gems, and his eyes are made of sapphires. He stands tall on a pedestal in the town square, looking out over the city. Despite his regal appearance, the Happy Prince is not really happy. He is deeply troubled by the suffering he sees all around him in the city, and he wants to help those in need.

The Happy Prince sees poverty and misery all around him in the city. He sees beggars huddled in doorways, children playing in the streets with no shoes or coats, and sick people lying on the sidewalks. He is moved by their plight and wants to do something to help them. He asks a swallow to take the jewels from his eyes, his gold leaf, and his precious gems and distribute them to the poor.

The Happy Prince sends a ruby for the seamstress because she is poor and struggling to feed her children. The ruby will provide her with the money she needs to buy food and clothing for her family. The swallow, who has been tasked with distributing the Happy Prince’s jewels to the poor, flies to the seamstress’ house and perches on the ledge outside her window. The swallow sees that the seamstress is cold and hungry, and he feels sorry for her. He decides to stay with her and keep her warm by covering her with the Happy Prince’s gold leaf.

The Happy Prince sends the sapphires to the playwright because he is struggling to complete his play. The sapphires will provide him with the inspiration he needs to finish his work. The Happy Prince believes that art and literature are important for the people’s happiness, and he wants to support the artist in his work.

The swallow sees the stark contrast between the wealthy and the poor in the city. He sees grand mansions with beautiful gardens and fountains, but he also sees dirty alleyways and shabby, rundown buildings. He sees people who have everything they need and people who have nothing. He is saddened by the suffering he sees, but he is also inspired by the kindness and generosity of the people who help each other in times of need.

The swallow did not leave the prince and go to Egypt because he was moved by the prince’s compassion and generosity. He saw the suffering of the people in the city and he wanted to help them. He felt that he had a responsibility to use his position as the Happy Prince’s messenger to help those in need. He also felt a sense of loyalty and friendship towards the Happy Prince, who had shown him great kindness and compassion.

In The Happy Prince, there are two things that are considered precious: the Prince’s leaden heart and the dead swallow. These objects hold great value because they represent the selflessness and kindness that the Prince and the swallow showed towards others.

The Prince’s leaden heart is considered precious because it symbolizes his compassion for the suffering people of his city. He gave away all of his wealth, including his ruby, sapphires, and gold, to help them, without thinking of his own well-being. He even continued to help his people after his death. His heart was so heavy with sorrow that it broke into two when he saw the suffering of his people.

The swallow, too, was precious because it showed kindness and selflessness. It carried the Prince’s messages to the poor, even though it knew it would face difficulties during the approaching winter. It stayed with the Prince and actively participated in helping the poor and needy in the city. When it died and fell at the Prince’s feet, it showed the ultimate sacrifice for others.

When God asked an angel to bring him the two most precious things in the city, the angel brought the leaden heart and the dead swallow. God recognized their value and said that the little bird would forever sing in his garden of Paradise, and the Happy Prince would praise Him in His city of gold. These two precious things serve as a reminder of the selfless acts of kindness that are so valuable in life.

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