The Selfish Giant, Oscar Wilde: Summary, Analysis & Themes

In Oscar Wilde's enchanting tale, "The Selfish Giant," we are transported to a world where love, compassion, and the magic of innocence unfold against the backdrop of a beautiful but isolated garden. This heartwarming story centers around a once-intimidating giant whose heart undergoes a profound transformation when touched by the pure smiles and laughter of young children. Join us as we delve into the journey of the giant and discover the power of selflessness and the eternal beauty of spring that blooms from acts of kindness. "The Selfish Giant" is a timeless fable that reminds us of the enduring value of compassion and the joy that comes from opening our hearts to others.

The Selfish Giant Summary by Oscar Wilde

The story of "The Selfish Giant" revolves around a once-intimidating giant who undergoes a remarkable transformation through the power of love and care. The giant adores his beautiful garden, filled with spring and colorful blossoms, which he views as a paradise on earth.

However, the giant leaves his garden to stay with a friend for several years. During his absence, neighborhood children enter his garden, filling it with laughter and joy. When the giant returns, he becomes upset by their presence and builds a fence to keep them out, shrouding his garden in perpetual winter.

The garden becomes a cold, desolate place, unlike the flourishing scenes in other areas. One day, the giant witnesses a child struggling to climb a tree in the cold. His heart softens, and he helps the child, bringing back the spring and blossoms to that spot.

The child's smile has a magical effect on the garden, and other children join in, turning the once bleak garden into a lively and joyful place. However, one child is missing—the boy who initially struggled to climb the tree and first brought spring to the giant's garden.

Years pass, and the giant longs to see the missing boy again. One day, he is overjoyed to find the boy in the shade of a flowering tree. The giant embraces him, and to his amazement, he realizes it is Jesus, who has come to take him to the eternal gardens in the sky.

When the other children return, they find the giant resting in a state of peace among the blooming flowers. He has finally found solace and eternal happiness in the heavenly gardens, where the spring never ends.

The story of "The Selfish Giant" teaches a profound lesson about the power of love, compassion, and the transformation that occurs when one opens their heart to others. Through selflessness and care for others, the giant discovers the true beauty of life and finds eternal bliss in the company of the divine.

The Selfish Giant Analysis by Oscar Wilde

Symbolism: Portraying Human Traits and Divine Intervention

Oscar Wilde utilizes symbolism throughout "The Selfish Giant" to convey deeper meanings. The Giant represents the arrogance of human beings who believe they have control over their destiny. The snow and winter symbolize the emotions of anger and hatred that the Giant harbors towards others. In contrast, the arrival of spring represents happiness and forgiveness.

The small child in the story symbolizes divine intervention and assistance for those who show compassion and love. The presence of the child brings about a transformation in the Giant's heart. The small children collectively symbolize the innocence and purity of human thought and emotion, untainted by greed and envy.

Setting: The Isolated Garden and Its Transformation

"The Selfish Giant" predominantly takes place within the confines of the Giant's garden. Initially, the garden is described as beautiful, adorned with an array of marvelous flowers and trees. However, after the Giant erects a wall around it, the garden becomes isolated and inaccessible.

The conflict arises from the Giant's annoyance with the children running freely in his garden, leading him to build the wall. As a result, the garden experiences a profound change, transforming from a vibrant and thriving space to a frozen and desolate graveyard.

Conflict: The Giant's Isolation and Waiting for Spring

The conflict in the story arises when the Giant isolates himself by walling off his garden from the children. With the wall in place, the children are unable to play, and the Giant merely waits for the arrival of spring within his isolated garden.

However, despite the passing of winter, the garden remains devoid of spring's warmth and blossoms. While the outside world enjoys the rejuvenation of spring, the Giant's garden remains trapped in a perpetual winter, symbolizing the consequences of the Giant's self-centered actions.

Climax: The Giant's Change of Heart and Breaking Down the Walls

The climax of the story occurs when the Giant witnesses the children laughing and playing within his garden. He realizes that the arrival of spring is directly linked to the joy and laughter of the innocent children. Additionally, he encounters a small boy struggling to climb a tree and helps him.

These experiences lead to a profound realization for the Giant, prompting him to break down the walls that have kept his garden isolated. The breaking of the walls signifies a transformation within the Giant, as he embraces love, compassion, and the joy of sharing his garden with others.


Oscar Wilde's "The Selfish Giant" employs symbolism, setting, conflict, and climax to craft a poignant narrative about the consequences of selfishness and the transformative power of love and compassion. Through the Giant's journey, readers are reminded of the importance of embracing kindness, breaking down barriers, and experiencing the beauty of genuine human connections. The story serves as a timeless reminder that acts of selflessness can bring about personal growth, redemption, and the restoration of joy and vitality in one's life.

The Selfish Giant Themes by Oscar Wilde

Arrogance: The Vice of Pride and Greed

In "The Selfish Giant," Oscar Wilde portrays the Giant as a symbol of human vices, particularly arrogance and greed. The Giant takes great pride in his beautiful garden and selfishly desires to keep it all to himself. He denies entry to innocent children, considering them a bothersome intrusion. Fueled by arrogance, the Giant lives a life devoid of affection, consumed by anger and pride.

Isolation: A Consequence of Selfishness

The Giant's refusal to share his garden with others leads him to a life of isolation. His selfishness prevents him from experiencing the joy of companionship and leaves him in solitude. He threatens and frightens everyone, including small children, contributing to his self-imposed isolation. As a result, his once vibrant garden becomes wintry and frozen, mirroring the coldness within his heart.

Love and Compassion: Transformative Emotions

The arrival of the small child, whom the Giant helps, brings a profound change in the story. The child's loving gesture of gratitude, represented through a kiss, melts the Giant's seemingly cold heart. He decides to break down the walls surrounding his garden, symbolizing a shift from selfishness to compassion.

Upon letting the children play freely in his garden and even joining in their frolics, the Giant experiences the warm emotions of compassion and care. These transformative feelings bring about a positive change in the Giant's attitude towards others, leading him to find contentment and happiness in his life. Through love and compassion, the Giant discovers solace and a sense of peace.

Salvation: Escaping a Loveless Existence

The central theme of "The Selfish Giant" revolves around the idea of salvation and breaking free from a loveless life. The Giant's loneliness stems from his failure to show love to others and considering them a nuisance. However, with the realization that the children only seek joy and playfulness, he opens his heart and welcomes them into his garden.

The arrival of spring, brought forth by the children's presence, transforms the desolate garden into a flourishing paradise. Through this act of embracing love and affection, the Giant finds redemption and salvation, escaping the punishment of a self-centered and loveless existence.


In "The Selfish Giant," Oscar Wilde masterfully weaves together themes of arrogance, isolation, love, compassion, and salvation. Through the journey of the Giant, readers are reminded of the consequences of selfishness and the transformative power of love and kindness. The story serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of opening our hearts to others and embracing the joy of selfless acts of compassion and care.

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