Nick by Christina Rossetti
In Nick by Christina Rossetti we have the theme of discontent, jealousy, insecurity, redemption and change. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Rossetti may be exploring the theme of discontent. Despite having many comforts Nick appears to be dissatisfied with his life. His dissatisfaction being driven by what others have and what he himself does not have. Even though materially Nick would be well off and not in need. It also becomes clear to the reader that Nick is jealous of others. Though again it is important to remember that Nick lacks very little apart from being happy for another individual. He also seems to be motivated by anger and when he notices that one of his neighbours may have achieved something. Nick too feels the need to achieve something better. Though some critic’s might suggest that Nick is being driven by a desire to better himself. This is not the case. Simply put Nick is jealous of all those around him who may be prospering.
In reality Nick is exceptionally insecure. Something that is noticeable by the wishes he wishes for during the story. With the exception of the last wish. Nick is destructive because of the sense of insecurity and jealousy he feels towards others. Something that is very human as can be seen by the fact that when Nick wishes to be wealthy others rob him and try to kill him. Which may be the point that Rossetti is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that people can lose sight of themselves or be blinded by jealousy and as a result take a course of action that is not only legally inappropriate but morally corrupt too. It is also interesting that despite all his wishes with the exception of the last one. Nick never achieves contentment or happiness. There is always someone or something better than him. First he wishes to be a sparrow and is attacked by a cat and then to defeat the cat he wishes to be a dog but that too proves to be unsuccessful. It is possible that Rossetti is suggesting that an individual should be happy with what they have without looking at their neighbour as a point of reference.
Similarly contentment may not be found by gaining materially but rather by living a decent and honest life. As Nick’s neighbours appear to be doing. There is no incidence in the story, until Nick gets involved, that Nick’s neighbours are discontent with what they have. It is only when Nick wishes to take a different form through his wishes and to cause havoc that his neighbours become unhappy. Which may leave the reader to believe that out of all the characters mentioned in the story the real problem lies with Nick. It is through his unhappiness or jealousy that he brings disturbance to his neighbours lives. This may be important as Rossetti may be highlighting how an internal emotion like jealousy can have an external effect. In this case on the lives of Nick’s neighbours. It is also noticeable that Nick himself only feels content when he makes his last wish. It is as though the lesson learnt by Nick is understood. He knows that it is better to appreciate what he has rather than focusing on what others might have.
The end of the story is also interesting as Rossetti appears to be exploring the theme of redemption. After Nick is transformed back into himself he redeems himself by repairing the damage he has caused to others. He becomes generous and attempts to make amends to all the neighbours that he has wronged. It is as though Nick has learnt to be grateful. If anything Nick is a far happier man when he no longer is jealous of others. It is also interesting that Rossetti introduces the theme of redemption as she may be suggesting that everybody has the opportunity to change. That it is better for an individual to help others, as Nick has helped his neighbours, rather than to be envious of them. Not only does it suggest that an individual is showing a degree of kindness to another person but within themselves they will be happier too. Something which is very much the case when it comes to Nick. Having experienced what it is like for his wishes to come true Nick realises that it is better to be respectful of others. To admire another person’s achievements or good fortune and not to be overly concerned about what he may not have but to focus on the things he has. By doing so Nick becomes a happier man.