10 Best Oscar Wilde Short Stories

Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwright, poet, and writer, is renowned for his wit, flamboyance, and ability to capture the complexities of the human condition. A master of the epigram, Wilde’s writing is characterized by its brilliance, originality, and depth, often imbued with biting satire and keen social commentary. During his lifetime, he produced an impressive array of literary works, including plays, essays, and novels. However, it is in the realm of the short story where his unique blend of humour, romance, and tragedy truly shines.

Wilde’s short stories often serve as moral fables or poignant fairy tales, touching on themes such as love, sacrifice, vanity, and the human soul. His keen observations about society, combined with his remarkable ability to evoke emotion through lyrical prose, make his short stories both timeless and profoundly resonant. Through these narratives, he explores the human psyche, questions societal norms, and provides a mirror to our virtues and flaws alike.

In this article, we will delve into Oscar Wilde’s most exceptional short stories, each a literary gem that encapsulates his genius and creative prowess. From the whimsical “The Canterville Ghost” to the tragic “The Nightingale and the Rose,” these tales not only entertain but also provoke thought, reflecting Wilde’s unique vision of the world. Join us as we explore the beauty, wisdom, and wit of these masterpieces, each one a testament to Wilde’s enduring legacy in the literary world.

1. The Happy Prince

Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” is a poignant tale that transcends its fairy-tale facade to deliver a strong commentary on social injustice. It tells the story of a gilded statue of a prince, who, with the help of a compassionate swallow, gives away his wealth to the impoverished citizens of his city.

The narrative unfolds with themes of empathy, sacrifice, and the often-ignored disparities of the human condition. Wilde’s elegant prose combines with the allegorical nature of the story, making it an enduring and powerful work that continues to resonate with readers of all ages.

2. The Nightingale and the Rose

In “The Nightingale and the Rose,” Wilde weaves a tragic tale that explores the nature of love and devotion. The story follows a nightingale’s self-sacrificing act to create a red rose for a young student to give to his beloved.

This story is a striking reminder of the ephemeral and often selfish aspects of human love. Wilde’s poetic language and the nightingale’s noble act offer a stark contrast, leaving the reader with an unforgettable lesson on the complexities of love and desire.

3. The Selfish Giant

The Selfish Giant” is a story of transformation and redemption. The tale revolves around a giant who, upon returning to his garden after years away, forbids children from playing there. His selfish act leads to an eternal winter in his once-beautiful garden.

However, the appearance of a special child brings about a miraculous change, not only to the garden but to the giant’s heart. Through allegorical storytelling, Wilde imparts profound messages about kindness, forgiveness, and the innocence of childhood, creating a timeless tale that speaks to readers of all generations.

4. The Devoted Friend

A biting satire on friendship and self-serving behaviour, “The Devoted Friend” unfolds as a story within a story, told through a conversation between a water-rat and a duck. It illustrates the exploitation of a kind and naive friend by someone who only thinks of his own interests.

Wilde’s characteristic wit and critique of human nature are at full display in this short tale. The seeming simplicity of the story belies its depth, providing a timeless reminder of the value of true friendship and the pitfalls of selfishness.

5. The Remarkable Rocket

Humour and satire characterize Wilde’s “The Remarkable Rocket,” which centres on a self-obsessed firework rocket that believes itself to be extraordinary. The rocket’s inflated self-image and inability to perceive its insignificance provide endless amusement throughout the story.

The story’s humour is underlined by Wilde’s profound insight into human vanity and delusion. The witty dialogue and clever characterizations make this short story a delightful read, offering a comical yet pointed reflection of human nature.

6. Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime

In “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” Wilde crafts a darkly comedic tale of a young nobleman who believes he must fulfil a prophecy of murder before he can marry. The story’s exploration of destiny, morality, and the lengths to which one might go to fulfil what is considered fate is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Wilde’s use of irony, combined with his critique of aristocratic society, creates a unique story that engages the reader with its wit and wisdom. Its humorous approach to profound themes demonstrates Wilde’s literary genius and his ability to blend comedy with critical social commentary.

7. The Model Millionaire

The Model Millionaire” is a clever tale that follows a young man who believes in the importance of appearance and acts with unexpected generosity. Through this brief yet impactful story, Wilde explores themes of perception, values, and irony.

The twist ending serves as a lesson on assumptions and the nature of true worth. It’s a concise but powerful story that reflects Wilde’s wit and his ability to create multifaceted characters that continue to captivate readers.

8. The Young King

“The Young King” tells the story of a shepherd’s son who becomes a king and learns about the suffering involved in creating his royal regalia. Through beautiful allegorical storytelling, Wilde explores themes of empathy, privilege, and social responsibility.

The story’s poignant message, combined with Wilde’s lyrical prose, makes it a powerful allegory that resonates with contemporary readers. It’s a tale that speaks to the heart, inviting reflection on our own values and the impact of our choices.

9. The Fisherman and His Soul

A mystical exploration of love, loss, and the duality of human nature, “The Fisherman and His Soul” is a tale about a fisherman who separates from his soul to be with a mermaid. The ensuing journey of his soul, and the consequences of their separation, unfolds with poetic beauty.

Wilde’s ability to delve into metaphysical concepts and human emotions is showcased in this intricate tale. It’s a rich and layered narrative that offers an insightful look into the complexities of love and the human soul, reflecting Wilde’s mastery of the short story form.

10. The Canterville Ghost

The Canterville Ghost” is a refreshing and humorous twist on traditional ghost stories. Set in an English country house, the tale follows the American Otis family’s interactions with a ghost who is frustrated by their lack of fear.

Wilde’s humour and satirical portrayal of cultural differences are masterfully woven into this delightful story. The blend of the supernatural with the mundane creates a whimsical narrative that continues to entertain readers, marking it as one of Wilde’s most beloved works.


Oscar Wilde’s mastery in the art of storytelling continues to resonate with readers today, transcending time and cultural boundaries. Through humour, tragedy, wit, and profound insight, his short stories offer a rich tapestry that reflects the multifaceted nature of human existence. Whether exploring themes of love, vanity, morality, or social inequality, Wilde’s tales never shy away from delving into the complexities of the human psyche. Each unique gem encapsulates Wilde’s literary genius and his enduring legacy as one of the most celebrated writers of his time, standing not merely as entertainment but as timeless lessons and reflections on our own humanity.

The wit, wisdom, and beauty found within these pages ensure that Wilde’s works remain not only relevant but essential reading for those seeking to understand the world and the human condition through the lens of literature. His stories are not just products of a bygone era but living narratives that continue to challenge, entertain, and inspire readers across generations. The richness of his storytelling ensures that Wilde’s tales persist as illuminating guides, providing insight and entertainment to readers who continue to find inspiration in his unparalleled literary craft.

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