The Selfish Giant Summary

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Coming up next: The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde: Theme & Analysis

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  • 0:00 What if Spring Never Came?
  • 0:32 The Giant Comes Home
  • 1:32 A Change of Heart
  • 2:39 The Children Return
  • 3:13 Paradise's Garden
  • 3:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

What happens when selfishness overtakes your heart? In this lesson about Oscar Wilde's short story, 'The Selfish Giant,' you'll find out! Through the story, we'll also explore what can happen when a giant's heart is changed.

What if Spring Never Came?

How would you feel if spring never came? If it were cold, windy, snowy December all the time? That might be difficult or almost unbearable, especially if you knew it were going to continue day after day, with no end in sight.

The main character in Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant experiences something similar, but of his own doing. Let's take a look at this short story about a pretty big guy.

The Giant Comes Home

A group of child friends had found a new place to play! A garden close to their school is the perfect spot to let off some steam after the school day. What the children didn't know was that the garden belonged to a giant, who'd been away for seven years visiting a friend.

When he returns, he's none too pleased to find children parading around his garden. He chases the children away and is determined to keep them out, saying ''I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.'' He decides to build a wall and put up a sign warning trespassers against entering his land. There's sadness among the children, but they follow the rules and steer clear of the giant's garden.

The season changes from winter to spring...sort of. It seems that the season has changed everywhere except for the giant's garden. Winter has come to stay and has invited its friends Snow, Frost, North Wind, and Hail. It is a cold, windy, bleak, and miserable experience in the giant's garden.

A Change of Heart

Hope springs anew for the giant when he awakens one morning to hear a bird chirping outside his window. Spring has returned to his garden, but how? The giant approaches the window and sees the source: the children have returned to their play place! The entire garden is alive and blooming, as ''the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children's heads.'' But one small corner is still snow-covered.

In that corner, he sees a boy who's crying because he's too small to climb up into the trees like the other children. The boy's plight touches the heart of the giant and he finally sees how his selfishness has impacted the children and his garden.

The giant enters the garden to help the small boy, but the other children see him and run away in fear. Yet, the giant's heart has been changed. He helps the boy into the tree, and the boy gives him a hug around the giant's neck. He then vows to knock down the wall and make the garden welcoming to the children again, saying ''It is your garden now, little children.''

The Children Return

Once the children recognize the change in the giant, they return to the garden and it once again grows lovely, lush, and strong with the blooming trees and flowers of springtime. They play all day until evening, when the giant bids them good night. The boy the giant had helped earlier is nowhere to be found, however, so ''the Giant felt very sad.''

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