In both tales, I found examples of the main characters suffering the consequences of being superficial. In “the Happy Prince,” the Swallow falls in love with a reed just because he was “attracted by her slender waist” (169). This focus on just appearance alone causes the Swallow to be lonely in the end since all his fellow companions left for Egypt while he stayed behind and failed to see that the reed had no real inner substance that he could love. In “the Swineherd,” the princess gives the cold-shoulder to the prince after she finds out his gifts are not “artificial” and won’t last forever, this sets in motion the prince’s scheme to punish the princess (207). The behavior of the Swallow and the princess shows that they are very shallow and lack a sense of worth in others. They do not know the true worth of things because they choose to love something simply based on outward appearances and superficial qualities that they deem important.
Another facet of superficiality that is illustrated in both stories is materialism. The town people in “the Happy Prince,” are portrayed as materialistic when they all praise how happy the Happy Prince was just by his rich jewel-filled appearance with remarks such as, “He is as beautiful as a weathercock” (169). What the town does not know is the Happy Prince is actually quite miserable and does not care for the silly jewels he has on his body. He judges his internal happiness not by his personal wealth but by his state of mind and content with the rest of the world. Thus, the prince is unhappy because he can “see all the ugliness and all the misery of [his] city and…[he] can’t choose but weep.” (170). After the Happy Prince sacrifices all his jewels the town people sing a different song, they claim that the statue is “no longer beautiful,” and that it was “no longer useful” (173). This is similar to how the Princess from “the Swineherd” believes that artificial beauty is better than natural beauty. The feelings of the town people and the Princess prove they only look at things in terms of its material value and not its historical or personal value. The town people do not even give thought to restoring the Happy Prince and quickly dismiss the statue as being “a little better than a beggar” (173). In addition, the way the Princess rejects the single rare rose that grows only once every five years particularly shows how she does not appreciate the real worth in objects around her. Being self-centered and vain is also another fault that is examined by both stories. The Happy Prince describes himself as being ignorant to the world’s injustices and poverty when he “lived in the Palace of Sans-Souci, where sorrow is not allowed to enter” (170). This illustrates the problem of how wealthy people tend to get lost in their own wealth and forget that there are others in the world that are not as lucky. Fortunately, the Happy Prince is given an opportunity after his death to realize his faults, see the real world around his once privileged life, and to atone for his past self-centeredness. Another example in “the Happy Prince,” of self-absorbance is the conduct of the town councilors after they see that the statue has lost its jewels and superficial luster. Instead of fixing the statue, they start to bicker among themselves over who would get a statue of themselves to replace the Happy Prince. The