The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde
In The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde we have the theme of humility, salvation, compassion, kindness, arrogance, loneliness, love and pain. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Wilde may be exploring the theme of humility. Though the Giant may be considered to be selfish at the start of the story; for removing the children from his garden. His joy at seeing the little boy playing transforms him. The Giant shifts from being selfish to being humble. He can see that his garden is providing joy to the little boy. As much joy to the boy as the Giant gets from his garden. It is also interesting that Wilde compares the little boy to Christ as by doing so it is possible that Wilde is suggesting that the Giant will receive salvation just as the little boy (or Christ) did. This is not the first time that Wilde has introduced a biblical theme into a story. In The Happy Prince both the Prince and the Swallow receive salvation and enter Heaven seated next to God. There is also a sense that the Giant in his own way loves the little boy such is the joy that the Giant gets from seeing the boy play in the garden.
It is also interesting that when winter passes and spring arrives nothing blossoms or grows in the Giant’s garden. It is possible that Wilde is suggesting that with the arrival of spring rather than there being growth and the flowers blooming the coldness of the winter remains. Which in many ways mirrors how the Giant has treated the children by not allowing them play in his garden. He too has been cold. If not arrogant. It may also be a case that Wilde is exploring the theme of pain. The effects that the Giant incurs when he is no longer able to see the little boy suggest not only was the little boy his favourite but it also highlights how lonely the Giant is feeling. Despite all the other children now playing in the garden. There is also no doubt that the little boy is special. Something that is noticeable by the wounds on his hands and feet. These wounds mirror the wounds the Christ received when he was crucified on the cross.
It is also possible that Wilde is suggesting that should an individual have the ability to share something, as the Giant does with his garden, they should share what they have with others. The benefits of sharing are clear to see in the story. Not only does the Giant bring happiness to the children but he also ensures that he will get into Heaven by his act of kindness with the little boy. In reality the Giant has helped Christ. He has been humbled by Christ (and the other children). All without him knowing why he should be chosen. From the beginning of the story the Giant is not a likeable type of character. However as the story progresses he becomes nicer and more likeable. Rather than throwing the children out of his garden he allows them to play in the garden. It is as though the Giant has changed his personality. Firstly it was his garden that he loved by the end of the story it is what the garden can do for others which is the most important thing for the Giant.
Though some critics might suggest that the Giant has done very little, by allowing the children play in his garden. He has in reality given all that he has to the children. He has no family to care for or indeed a family who can love him. All his joy is derived from the children playing in the garden. How compassionate the Giant can be is also noticeable by the fact he wants to know who has wounded the little boy. He wants to protect the little boy. Which again is a complete reversal of how the Giant thought at the beginning of the story when he built a wall around his garden. Though the Giant was not open to love at the beginning of the story by the time the story ends he is surrounded by love from the children in the garden. Something that stems from the fact that the Giant no longer thinks about himself or his property in a selfish way. By opening his garden to the children the Giant has also opened his heart to love. However the Giant does pay a price. His life ends though he is assured of eternal life in Heaven with the little boy. Again because he showed humility and kindness to others. Through his compassion for the little boy the Giant has achieved salvation and the children still have a place to play. Thanks to the change of heart of the Giant and the influence of the little boy.