Annotated Paragraph

And when the Moon shone in the heavens the Nightingale flew to the
Rose-tree, and set her breast against the thorn. All night long
she sang with her breast against the thorn, and the cold crystal
Moon leaned down and listened. All night long she sang, and the
thorn went deeper and deeper into her breast, and her life-blood
ebbed away from her.


Not only in this paragraph that I selected but in the whole short story, The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde, the meaning is anything but literal. in a close-reading, you can see just from this paragraph that this love story is really a testament to the pain and suffering that love causes.

The choice of words Wilde uses is also a contributor. “The Moon shone in the heavens”. Firstly, “Moon” is capitalized, as if it is another character, and why the choice of the moon as opposed to the sun? The nightingale is perfectly capable of singing in both the day time and night time. The reason the moon is used is because the moon orbits around the Earth in a cycle. This concept of a cycle reflects on the theme that love is a vicious cycle. Also, the moon here symbolizes the dark and bright side to love, and the dark path that the bird took just to give the Student what he desired. Clearly Wilde didn’t imply that the moon is literally in “the heavens”. Here the moon being in the “heavens” represents something that is  ever present, yet unattainable like the love that the nightingale has for the student.

The word “thorn” means an extended, sharp piece of a stem. But in this story, the connotation of the thorn is pain. The thorn digs into the breast of the nightingale causing her physical pain, but it is meant to represent the emotional pain that love causes.

Next, the moon is described as “cold crystal”, and leaning down and listening, giving even more personification to the moon. Cold literally means low temperature, but can also mean lacking passion.  And crystal is a solid material that has a repeating pattern extended in all 3 dimensions, but can also mean brightness. Here Wilde uses the term “cold crystal” to describe the moon because the crystal shows that it is shining down bright onto the nightingale listening to her sing, but with unsympathetic ears because it knows of its unattainability.

Lastly, the word “ebb” means literally to decline, decay or fade away. This is to show the slow process (i.e. “cycle”) of decline that love subjects people to, because of the sacrifice people make of the unattainable.

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