Oscar Wilde's 'The Selfish Giant': A Felicitous Ending?
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No one will dispute the fact that Oscar Wilde's short story, "The Selfish Giant", is a piece that is undoubtedly for children (Luthra 2009). The tale is rife with imagery and diction that appeals to a child's sensibilities, and is complete with a hero (or anti-hero) and other children, facets of which are endemic of children's literature. However, the primary problem with this interpretation of this short story is that virtually all children's stories end happily. Wilde's narrative, however, does not. It ends in death, with the death of the hero, as a matter of fact. However, a close analysis of the rhetorical devices invoked by the author in this piece demonstrate that due to the plethora of Christian symbolism within it, the death of the hero, the Giant, actually conforms to conventional children's literature endings as one which is decidedly happy. The abundance of Christian symbolism and imagery (Shanks 2009) is apparent from the beginning of "The Selfish Giant". The story is largely set in a garden, beautiful and replete with nature's bountiful gifts (Lingam 2010), that symbolizes the Garden of Eden an earthly paradise. The Giant (ironically enough) largely symbolizes mankind, due to the fact that his flaws (which are represented in the story by his selfishness) cause him to lose his paradise which happens when he prevents the children from partaking of its beauty and an eternal winter obliterates its beauty. However, he is able to regain his