The Strange Friendship of Hugh and Hans in The Devoted Friend, a Book by Oscar Wilde

In Wilde’s “The Devoted Friend” we are given a tale within a tale about how to treat others. The characters we focus on the most is Hans and Hugh the Miller and their strange friendshipr Hugh is a rich man along with his wife and son while Hans is a gardener who lives in a small cottage. Throughout the story, we see Hugh asking Hans to do many different tasks, some thatjeopardize his business and kill him in the end, with no reward to Hans except being told friendship is its own reward.

Hans gladly goes along with this, only hesitating when it could affect his business, even going out into an awful storm for Hugh to get a doctor to his son With what we see with Hugh and Hans really be considered a friendship, or is it something worse? Our first experience with Hugh and the Millar is in the middle of Spring as Hans plans to buy back his wheelbarrow, which he had to sell to survive the winter, which Hugh comments was “a very stupid thing to do” (39), but Hugh than offers Hans to give him his broken wheelbarrow.

Hans is ecstatic by this and says he can repair it with some wood he has, but Hugh says that he could use that piece of wood to patch a hole on the roof of his farm, saying “it is quite remarkable how one good action always breeds another. I have given you my wheelbarrow, and now you are going to give me your planks Of course, the wheelbarrow is worth far more than the plank, but true friendship never notices things like that” (40).

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But how does Hans feel about all of this? He seems quite fine about all of this until Hugh mentions that once the repair on the roof is over, Hans wouldn’t have much to use when repairing the wheelbarrow, which Hugh claims is not his fault, then proceeds to have Hans fill a big basket full of flowers for him in exchange for the broken wheelbarrow. With both of these troubling statements, Hans becomes quite troubled by this, as he wouldn’t make much money if he were to fill the basket with flowers for Hugh. But as Hugh oh so graciously encourages, “as I have given you my wheelbarrow, I don’t think that it is much to ask you for a dew flowers I may be wrong, but I should have thought that friendship, true friendship, was quite free from selfishness of any kind”.

Despite the obvious flaws in the argument that a broken wheelbarrow is worth more than a plank of wood and a basket full of flowers, Hugh abuses Hans’s good nature day after day, giving him more physically demanding tasks to the point where he won’t even let Hans sleep in for a day, justifying that being slothful was very unbecoming of him Hans does slightly retaliate against him on this, saying the hearing the birds chirping helps him work fasten Which Hugh finds very great, because he wants Hans to fix the roof for him, The only other sign of retaliation is Hans asking Hugh “Do you think it would be unfriendly of me if I said I was busy?” (42) But unfortunately for Hans, Hugh just nudges him along with his preaching on friendship. Now you may ask, does Hugh always act like this? Indeed, he does, even to his family, Earlier in the story we see Hugh having supper with family during the winter, talking about Hans, Hugh’s youngest son asks his father why they don’t invite Hans to their home during the winter, since Hugh refuses to visit Hans because “when people are in trouble, they should be left alone, and not be bothered by visitors”.

Hugh criticizes his son for thinking such a thing, then explains, “Why, if little Hans came up here, and saw our warm fire, and our good supper, and our cask of red wine, he might get envious, and envy is a most terrible thing, and would certainly spoil anybody’s nature” (38). This seems to set in how Hugh sees Hans, as someone who could quite easily be swayed with material possessions since Hans himself has barely anything to his name, and thinks that it’s for Hans’s own good, Yet Hugh never consults Hans on this matter, the only thing close Hugh thinks about Hans’s feelings is asking him how his winter was when he first visits him. This isn’t the only time Hugh seems to think Hans as a mindless peasant who only wants material objects. During the funeral, Hugh and the Blacksmith talk for a little bit, and the Blacksmith says that the death of Hans was a loss to everyone, and Hugh replies, “a great loss to me at any rate, why, I had as good as given him my wheelbarrow, and now I really don’t know what to do with it, It is very much in my way at home, and it is in such bad repair that I could not get anything for it if I sold it.

I certainly take care not to give away anything again. One always suffers for being generous“ This shows how Hugh really thought of Hans as well as everyone else around him, as merely things for him to obtain more praise from or through. We get no resolution to Hugh beyond the funeral, whether he really learns any lesson about friendship or if karma comes around to avenge the death of Hans The Linnet, the one who’s been telling the story of Hans and Hugh, does not tell us what happens to him, saying to the Water-rat, “I really don’t know, and I am sure that I don’t care” (44) Though through all the grief we had to see Hans go through, the message becomes quite clear that an abusive friendship could soon become a deadly one.

Work Cited

  1. Wilde, Oscar, “The Devoted Friend,” The Major Works, Edited by Isobel Murray, Oxford UP, 2008, pp 36 — 4s,

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The Strange Friendship of Hugh and Hans in The Devoted Friend, a Book by Oscar Wilde. (2022, Oct 07). Retrieved from

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