Although having written only one novel in his lifetime (he was mainly a playwright) – Oscar Wilde is one of the most well-known authors to this day. Perhaps because of his contradictory statements or his adherence to all things beautiful, many people view him today as profound.
In his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which you can search for on Textbooks.org, you can see Gray and Wilde as silhouettes of each other, considering Gray’s downfall was enrapture in aestheticism – as well as Wilde’s. It almost is as if Oscar Wilde knew that his demise would be in the same manner.
The novel is essentially about a man, Dorian Gray, who is ever so beautiful, but realizes that someday he will not be as lustrous, and thus makes a pact to trade his soul for eternal beauty and youth. His soul is encaptured in the painting, which through out the novel, becomes more bitter, grotesque, and rotten – while his exterior remains what appears to be a man in his twenties. This is not the first time that the idea of aestheticism be explored in a novel, but it is certainly one of the most renowned. The man, Gray, explores homosexuality, the drug world of London, murder, among other things as a result of his pact – the trade-off essentially drives the man crazy.
Wilde’s life was marked by trial and tribulation, mainly due to the fact that he was incredibly involved with Lord Alfred Douglas – and was condemned for gay acts and love letters. Although an undoubtedly bright man, his life was very sad. He could not overcome his “afflictions” – with some even saying that he was reportedly a chronic fornicator.
In his lifetime, he was married to a woman named Constance, who he had some children with as well; what is most astounding about Constance is that she stuck through his side when he was imprisoned for homosexual acts. Although she hid herself and her children away, she had always told her kids to not disown their father.
In his books and plays, he alludes to love with women being as something that can not exist inside of marriage. However, something in me tells me that he loved her, because when having an opportunity to write letters while in prison, instead of writing to Lord Alfred Douglas, he wrote to his wife – although Lord Alfred Douglas’ whim was for Wilde to speak to him.
I suppose Oscar Wilde was like the rest of us; making mistakes and learning from them – taking everything day by day, trying to get things right. Or trying to have fun. Or both. Regardless, if we lived our lives on the basis of fun now, consequence later – we can see how, though dramatized, it would turn out. Oscar Wilde was an extreme that we ourselves may never be, but we can use as an example.
His books and plays are well worth reading or watching if you would ever have the pleasure to do so.