Blog Post 7: Is Wilde “Wild”?

Born in 1854, Irish poet Oscar Wilde was a leader in promoting the literary Aestheticism movement. During this period, Wilde and other literary leaders reflected the Aestheticism belief that the many forms of art should solely give sensual pleasure as opposed to conveying moral, educational messages. Along with his strong leadership in embodying this ideal, Wilde was also known for his criminal conviction revolving around his homosexuality. For his deviating characteristics and beliefs on art and sexuality, Wilde was perceived as someone “larger than life” and very unusual compared to the “norm” expected from a poet and/or society member. Now, Wilde is widely appreciated for his diversion from his time’s expectations and his literary works have become well known. 

Wilde was a controversial figure significantly for his homosexuality and conviction of “gross indecency”. In the Victorian era in which he produced his works, it was very rare of a public literary figure to be homosexual, be a convict, and passionately communicate his beliefs in his writing. Looking at his writing that reflects these deviations, I perceive him as a “wild” writer. One of his pieces that stood out to me was the poem, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”. Written in 1898 after his release from Reading Gaol Prison, the literary work describes the poet’s imprisonment and narrates the brutal hanging of inmate Charles Thomas Wooldridge. Wilde eerily describes the shameful death he witnesses, detailing the “noose about his neck”, the “cloth upon his face”, and the “dark disgrace”. Incorporating a darker element in his writing, Wilde takes on an uncommon approach to reflecting criminal punishments. Instead of looking down on those who have done wrong in society and viewing punishments as just, the poet expresses the grim brutality of the punishments that criminals face. Furthermore, Wilde states that “each man kills the thing he loves” and does wrong, yet not everyone dies this brutal death. This stance is wild in that it goes against the common ideal that criminals are bad and deserve the punishments they receive for their wrongdoings- people who stay out of the criminal system are good and deserve better than those in jail. By wildly presenting a work that was seen as “out of the ordinary” and controversial during this time, the poet lives up to his last name and challenges society through his literary art.

Vivian Nguyen

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One Response to Blog Post 7: Is Wilde “Wild”?

  1. aga2544

    I agree that this piece of work demonstrates the “wildness” of Wilde. The quote you mention, “each man kills the thing he loves” is a loaded statement by Wilde and I think you elaborate on it well. I think that your reasoning for how it can be considered “wild” is approached thoughtfully and thoroughly.
    – Anna A.

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