The Selfish Giant
'The Selfish Giant' is a short story for children written by Oscar Wilde. It was first published in the anthology ‘The Happy Prince and Other Tales’ in 1888. This story is about a giant who learned an important lesson about love and sharing and holds different meanings for people of different ages.
The Selfish Giant Summary
The Selfish Giant is a story written by Oscar Wilde. It is a children’s story. In this story, we can find the characters like the selfish giant, his friend Cornish Ogre who are mythical humans. The story begins with the children who used to play in the giant’s garden after school. The garden was large and very beautiful with green grass. Over the grass, there were beautiful flowers like stars. There was the castle of the giant also. After seven years, the giant returned from his friend Cornish Ogre. He became furious because he saw the children playing in his garden. He growled and chased the children out of his garden. He built a high wall around his garden and put up a notice board with a warning. On the board "TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED" was written.
The children became quite upset because they missed their lovely place to play. They didn't find any suitable place for them to play. Because of the bad behaviour of the giant, the garden started to become ugly. There was spring season all over the country but there wasn’t spring season in the giant’s garden. The spring season stopped appearing in his garden. There was only the winter season. The frost, the north wind, the hail and the snow started appearing there whereas there were beautiful flowers, fruits and birds chirruping outside his garden where children were free. The giant became very sad to find the boring condition of his garden.
One morning, he saw the most wonderful sight. He saw the little hole in the wall through which the children were entering into his garden. He saw the children playing in his garden. The trees were so glad to welcome the children back again in the garden. They had covered themselves with blossoms. The birds were also flying and twittering with delight. He found spring season once again in his garden because of the presence of the children. Far away in one corner, there was still winter. He saw a small boy there who couldn’t climb up the tree.
The poor tree was covered with frost and snow and the north wind was blowing and roaring above it. The sight made the giant realize his mistake. His heart melted. He noticed why the Spring wouldn’t come in his garden. He went there and helped the boy. The boy kissed the giant being happy. The giant broke the wall of his garden. He permitted the children to play in his garden. He started playing with them. After some years, the giant became old and weak. He was very feeble too. He couldn’t play with the children so he sat on a huge armchair and watched the children playing the games.
One day, while he was sitting on his chair, he saw a marvellous sight in the farthest corner of the garden. There was the same little boy whom he had loved. He rushed towards there but became angry to find signs of nails on the boy's palms and feet. When he asked the boy about him, the boy related to him about his help and offered him his garden which was the garden of paradise. That particular afternoon, the giant was found dead underneath a big tree. His body was covered with white blossoms
About the Author
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish wit, poet, novelist, and playwright. Wilde was born of professional and literary parents. His father, Sir William Wilde, was an ear and eye surgeon, who also published books. His mother was a revolutionary poet and an authority on Celtic myth and folklore. He published a book of poems, lectured in the United States and Canada on the new "English Renaissance in Art" and interior decoration, and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist.
Known for his biting wit, Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day. He is best known for his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and his comic masterpieces Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). He was a spokesperson for the late 19th-century Aesthetic movement in England, which advocated art for art’s sake.
The Selfish Giant Exercise
Understanding the text
Answer the following questions.
a. Where did the children use to play?
Answer: The children used to play in the Giant's garden which was so beautiful and lovely.
b. What did Snow and the Frost do to the garden?
Answer: The Snow covered up the grass with the great white cloak and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then, they invited the North Wind to stay with them.
c. What did the giant hear when he was lying awake in bed?
Answer: The giant heard some lovely music. It sounded so sweet when he was lying awake in bed.
d. Why do you think spring season never came to the giant's garden?
Answer: I think the spring season never came to the giant's garden because he didn't permit the children to play and enjoy in his garden.
e. How did the giant realise his mistake?
Answer: The Giant realised his mistake by finding out the unusual changes in his garden. He learnt that without the presence of the children the garden couldn’t be lovely and the garden didn’t get the chance to experience the spring season.
Reference to the Context
A. Read the extracts given below and answer the questions that follow:
a. “How happy we were there!” they said to each other.
i. Where does ‘there’ refer to?
Answer: 'There' refers to the Giant’s garden.
ii. What do ‘they’ refer to?
Answer: 'They' refers to the children.
iii. Why are they saying so?
Answer: They are saying so because the Giant doesn't let them play in his garden where they used to play happily after school.
b. “I have many beautiful flowers,” he said; “but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.”
i. Who is the speaker?
Answer: The Giant is the speaker.
ii. Who is he speaking to?
Answer: He is speaking to himself praising his garden.
iii. Who are ‘the children that the speaker is referring to?
Answer: The children that the speaker is referring to are the small and innocent children who play in the Giant’s garden after school.
iv. Why is the speaker saying that ‘the children are the most beautiful flowers of all’?
Answer: The speaker is saying that 'the children are the most beautiful flowers of all’ because children or flowers are the sources of happiness. The giant has experienced the appearance of beauty in the presence of children.
c. When the little child smiled at the Giant, and said to him, "You let me play once in your garden, today you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise," shortly afterwards, the happy giant dies. What is the coincidence of this event? Describe it in relation to this fairy tale.
Answer: In the next time, when the Giant is very old and feeble, he can’t play with the children anymore. The child appears there to favour the giant. At this time the giant is sitting in his armchair and watching the children who are playing. One winter morning, the little child whom he once helped to climb the tree appeared and offered him never-ending and peaceful life in his garden i.e. heaven. At the same time, the Giant died. Thus, the occurrence of the child’s offer of eternal life in heaven and the death of the Giant is a coincidence.
B. The story makes use of personification as one of the main figures of speech. Cite three examples of personification from the story. What is the significance of the seasons personified in the story?
Answer: In the story ‘The Selfish Giant’ the writer has used personification as one of the main figures of speech which gives human qualities to the non-human objects. The three examples of personification are the Snow, the North Wind and the Frost. The significance of seasons personified in the story has made non-human entities more vivid or helped the readers understand and sympathize with or react emotionally to them.
C. This story can be read like a fairytale, where the children, the seasons, the tree, the corner of the garden, the snow, the wind and the frost are all used as symbolism. Interpret those symbols.
Answer: The story ‘The Selfish Giant’ can be read as a fairy tale. The writer of the story has used the feature of symbolism to teach the readers a moral lesson. From the story, we can get the idea like ‘the children’ symbolize innocence and love. Likewise, seasons symbolize hope, life and death. The tree is the symbol of patience whereas the corner of the garden stands for heaven. The snow, the wind, and the frost signify grief, sorrow and pain.
D. Which figure of speech is used for ‘winter, frost, snow, north wind, hail and little child’? Who is the little child compared to?
Answer: Like a fairy tale, the story is full of figures of speech. Mainly two different types of figures of speech are used. They are personification and symbolism are used for winter, frost, snow, north wind and hail. Winter is the symbol of pain and suffering whereas spring is the symbol of happiness. The little child is represented as a Christian symbol. He is compared to Jesus Christ.