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Study Of The Symbolism In The Giant Character In Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant

What Humans Can Learn From a Giant

In “The Selfish Giant” Oscar Wilde uses the characteristics of the Giant to portray aspects of the human condition including self- reliance, selfishness, and the inability to recognize sin, but he also shows how, just like the Giant, humankind can be saved from these transgressions. Today’s people feel like they can take care of themselves and that they do not need to ask for help, because it is seen as a sign of weakness. In the story, the Giant symbolizes the “giant mentality” humans possess: that we are strong and capable of accomplishment by ourselves. People are self-reliant and of a mindset that they do not need assistance, similar to mighty giant.

Another giant-like attitude humans possess is that of selfishness. Much of the story consists of how selfish the giant is and how that affects him. Humans do not like to admit it, but as a whole, people are quite selfish, and just like the giant, many people have numerous possessions that could be enjoyed by others, but are hidden away for personal use. There is a fear that an item may be damaged or overused, but more often than not, that item is then kept in such great care that it is not even enjoyed by the owner. In “The Selfish Giant,” the garden belonging to the giant is a place where children loved to play. The reader observes that there is no mention of damage to the property, and yet the Giant is furious when he discovers the children in his garden. He exiles them from his garden and builds a wall surrounding it, and yet the reader may notice that there is no evidence or mention that the Giant uses the garden himself. The Giant only cares about himself and says that the garden belongs to him alone and he would, “allow nobody to play in it but myself.” (Hallett and Karasek 257)

Soon after the garden is barricaded, spring stops visiting that enclosure and winter resides there all year round as a result of the Giant’s sin. Winter is harsh and cold, and the Giant waits for it to become spring. Just as the Giant’s sinful and selfish heart is cold, so is his once beautiful garden. He is dead to his sin and cannot comprehend why spring has not arrived. When people have not accepted the good news of Christ, their hearts are also dead to sin, which is a parallel to the Giant’s heart and his garden.

Suddenly a great transformation happens. There is a change in the air, and hope for the Giant, and therefore, mankind as well. The Giant’s heart is touched by the song of a bird, just like a person’s heart can be reached and changed by the Holy Spirit, thus changing them from being dead to sin and becoming alive to righteousness. The death of winter departs and spring returns to the Giant as he softens his heart and changes his character from selfishness to caring. Wilde effectively utilizes parallels between the Giant and human attitude to demonstrate to the reader the affects that sin can have on one’s life and how they can be redeemed.

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