The Nightingale and the Rose Summary by Oscar Wilde


The fiction “The Nightingale and the Rose” by Oscar Wilde highlights the selflessness and purity of true love and the futility of mere attraction. It asserts that to truly love one needs purity of heart and sincerity of emotions.

A Boy’ Dreamgirl

The story begins inside a garden where a young boy is lost in his thoughts and remonstrating his poverty and poor luck. He is enamoured with the daughter of his professor and yearns to take her to the upcoming dance.

The girl wants a red rose to complement her dress at the dance but the boy has not been successful in finding one. Feeling luckless and helpless he breaks into a sob.

The Nightingale

However, the troubled boy had a keen admirer, a Nightingale. The little bird is smitten with the true romance that she feels the boy harbours.

She feels his pain and decides to scour the garden for a red rose. She visits various rose-trees, yellow, white and finally comes at the red-rose tree.

She narrates the plight of the young boy but the red-rose tree informs her that there were no blooming red roses as it was still winter.

But the Nightingale is determined and insists harder. The tree finally offers a way to germinate a new floor but through an act of earnest sacrifice.

A Deadly Task

The tree tells the bird that she will have to sing while impaling herself to its thorn in order to flower a fresh rose-bud. The rest of the animals of the garden are perplexed about the boy’s mourning and the bird’s sentiments. 

The Nightingale is a votary of true and sacrificial love so she accepts the sacrifice. She visits the boy and tells him to love the girl of his affection solemnly and faithfully. The boy is confused by her words but she ignores his insensitivity.

Nightingale’s Sacrifice

The boy goes back to his room and lies on his bed dreaming about the girl. The bird approaches the red-rose tree beside the window of his room and begins the ritual. The night falls and the glistening moon decorates the dark sky. She begins to sing about young and restless love.

Soon the bud starts to appear. As the morning approaches she sings her heart out about maturing and growing love. At the stroke of dawn, she breaks into a song about selfless and divine love and forces her chest into the thorn of the tree. The blood pours out of her body and colors the rose red. The tree mourns her sacrifice as she lies dormant on its branch.

When the boy wakes up he is delighted to see a red rose on his window. However, he is intrigued by its scientific and research value as it seems like a unique species of the flower. He is callous and oblivious to the devotion and painful sacrifice that was needed to make it bloom.


Later that day, he visits the girl of his desires and offers her the rose. As if fate wanted to punish him for his insensitivity to the Nightingale’s sacrifice, the girl refuses to accept it. She tells him that she has already agreed to dance with a wealthier boy who gifted her glittering jewellery.

The boy is devastated and flings the rose to the ground. It is crumpled to bits by a wagon. The boy feels heartbroken and claims to have to lost faith in the idea of true love. He decides to spend his time and energy of higher and nobler endeavors of education.