Blog Post 7: Is Wilde “Wild”?

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was a popular Irish author, playwright, and poet of the late Victorian era. He was a vocal promoter of the Aesthetic Movement which preached that art should focus on depicting appealing and beautiful imagery instead of telling a message to escape the reality of the Industrial Age. His only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, received harsh criticism, being called out for embracing sin and lacking morality. The book was also negatively received due to the homoerotic subtext, which likely were from reflections of his own life. Wilde would later go and revise the book to both follow and argue against these criticisms. Nowadays the book, along with his other works, are recognized as classics. Wilde had been in a marriage with two children, but would later begin an affair with another man and end his marriage nine years later. This affair would lead to his lover’s father calling Wilde a “posing somdomite” which prompted Wilde to sue in response. In an unlikely turn of events, the court noted his history of homoeroticism and arrested him on charges of sodomy and gross indecency.

From both his history and his works, I would call Wilde a “wild” writer. Getting jailed after losing a court case from suing someone who insulted you is a far from normal experience. In addition, committing adultery was and still is immoral, especially with another man due to public standards of the time. His poetry also embodies these aspects of wildness. The Ballad of Reading Gaol was written by Wilde to describe his suffering in prison. Wilde shifts from times of no emotion where “what was dead was Hope.” and transitions into great bursts of emotion. Calling upon gruesome imagery, he repeats the phrase “and makes it bleed”, using pathos to represent his sickening fear in prison. He continues to create brutal and uncomfortable imagery, detailing his experiences watching his inmates get punished.

They stripped him of his canvas clothes,

And gave him to the flies;

They mocked the swollen purple throat

And the stark and staring eyes:

And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud

In which their convict lies.

Wilde creates a sense of empathy for both the punished prisoner and for himself as he is forced to watch what unfolds. Pathos is used once more to detail how emotionally devastating his time in jail was.

– Kenny Ly


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2 Responses to Blog Post 7: Is Wilde “Wild”?

  1. vtn477

    I also picked “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” as a literary work that portrays the poet’s wildness. While reading the poem, I found myself feeling a bit uncomfortable because of his gruel, eerie description of the hanging and the other punishments faced by criminals. This goes to show that the poet’s ideas and words were, in fact, wild because he presents ideas that are not expected and commonly perceived as normal. I liked how you described the pathos that contributed to this. Good Job!

  2. aew2976

    I wrote about the “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” as well! Because of the time period, I think this poem shocked most people as it revealed an ugly idea of what the prison system consisted of. Therefore, I do think Oscar Wilde is a “wild” writer. Great post!

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