Blog Post 7: Is Wilde “Wild”?

Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde was born in 1854. He was notable for his ornate lifestyle and writings and was labeled as a dandy-writer during the Decadent movement in literature. His pieces of work often contained parallels to his “wild” lifestyle. Criticized for the “wild” lifestyle he lived, he was known for being contrary to the ideals of Victorian-era England. Undoubtedly, these criticisms were present during his public trials for “gross indecency.” Wilde was accused of practicing homosexuality, which was a criminal act in late 19th century England. Subsequently, Wilde was found guilty, and some of his writings were used as evidence against him.

A piece of evidence used against Wilde during his trial was his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. This novel exemplifies Wilde’s dandy style because the main character, Dorian Gray, was exuberant and was devoted to maintaining a polished appearance. While the novel exemplifies Wilde’s style, it also parallels his queerness. This queerness is portrayed in some of the characters. For example, Wilde queer-codes the character Basil Howard. In the novel, Dorian Gray was Howard’s muse and the subject of the portrait that plagued Dorian throughout the story. Howard’s obsession with Dorian was heavily queer coded by Wilde, which was apparent in their interactions. An example of queer coding is present in this interaction, “I worshipped you. I grew jealous of every one to whom you spoke. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you” (Wilde). In this quote, Howard essentially professes his love to Dorian, which was unconventional during the Victorian era. With these interactions between the two characters, Wilde challenged the societal norms concerning male relationships. Because homosexuality was prohibited, the relationship between Basil and Dorian was a source of controversy for this novel. Ultimately, Wilde demonstrates “wildness” by provoking societal standards centered on homosexuality.

Ironically, I think Wilde’s surname suits his character well. In all senses of the word, Wilde is “wild.” In the literary sense, his writings challenged societal norms in Victorian-era England. In his personal life, Wilde challenged those norms as well. Ultimately, I think that Wilde is “wild because he broke societal ideals of the Victorian era by including queerness in his work.

-Anna Allen


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

  1. ip4973

    I love how you define wild as challenged social norms! That is a really cool way to look at it and see how Wilde did that both in his work and personal life.

  2. lmr3855

    I personally really like the book “The Picture of Dorian Gray” because it gives us insight into the thoughts of the characters and it isn’t something that you would particulately expect from a book with those settings and characters specially due to the time when it was written. Like you mentioned, there is queerness in the book but what really stood out to me was that it was all throughout and very clear. At the beginning of the book, the painter describes how he had never seen someone as beautiful as Dorian and how emphatuated he was by him, feeling like a privilege to be able to pain his face. I agree with you that his last name certainly did fit who he was and what he did in his life, Wilde wasn’t afraid to be wild even if the consequences weren’t what he would’ve wanted.

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