Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” : The Hidden Messages and the Debate on the Target Audience
Abstract: Oscar Wilde’s fairytales have been read to children for more than a century. Nevertheless, since the time of their publication in 1888 and 1891, the target audience of The Happy Prince and Other Tales and A House of Pomegranates have been the concern of critics. Delving into the context behind the rich and colourful imagery, one can find implications of homosexuality, the Paterian aesthetic and religious connotations. According to Carol Tattersall, The Happy Prince and Other Tales successfully mislead the public that it is innocent of any intention to undermine established standards of living or writing. Tattersall’s argument is based on comparing the first collection to Wilde’s second, A House of Pomegranates, which was perceived as “offensive and immoral” (136). On the other hand, William Butler Yeats states in his introduction to The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde that overall the reviewers of The Happy Prince and Other Tales were hostile because of Wilde’s aesthetic views (ixxvi). But Yeats overlooks the fact that Wilde was very pleased and proud, dashing notes to friends and reviewers and signing copies to many people (Tattersall 129). In general, the reception of Wilde’s first collection was more positive than that of the second because it was milder and more subtle in its controversial themes.
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