The Devoted Friend by Oscar Wilde, 1888
The magic trick:
Creating a villain who will drive you crazy
This story will drive you crazy. The injustice of it all!
Certainly, we get a villain who is nearly perfectly drawn. Every detail just nails it. He’s awful and selfish. But the cherry on the top? He thinks he’s exceptionally kind and just.
The worst kind of villain.
And that’s quite a trick on Wilde’s part.
‘”What a delightful time I shall have in my garden,” he said, and he went to work at once.
‘But somehow he was never able to look after his flowers at all, for his friend the Miller was always coming round and sending him off on long errands, or getting him to help at the mill. Little Hans was very much distressed at times, as he was afraid his flowers would think he had forgotten them, but he consoled himself by the reflection that the Miller was his best friend. “Besides,” he used to say, “he is going to give me his wheelbarrow, and that is an act of pure generosity.”
‘So little Hans worked away for the Miller, and the Miller said all kinds of beautiful things about friendship, which Hans took down in a note-book, and used to read over at night, for he was a very good scholar.
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