The Implementation of Allegory by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was an Irish dramatist and short story writer who became famous for his fairy tales for children, or short stories. His short stories were mainly decorated with an extensive implementation of allegory. His short stories are artistically created because he was an aesthetic: he used symbols, symbolic characters, symbolic settings, situations, incidents, and events. He was able to convey multiple meanings through his writings. Oscar Wilde belonged to the Victorian age. Unlike the other Victorians, he was a dandy. In the Victorian age, the word ‘dandy’ was used for a cultured gentleman who took pride in himself on his charm, natural elegance, wit, and extravagant manners. The same wit, charm, elegance and noticeable manners can be easily seen both in Wilde’s own personality and in his works. Wilde is best known for his light and comic stories, as he once said “Life is far too important to be taken seriously”. So, these lines show his philosophy of life. He did not want to remain serious, similarly, he did not want to teach anything explicitly, Wilde was a social critic, who has criticized society in an indirect way through the use of allegorical elements. He was able to do so in a mild and artistic way. He did all this moral teaching without being cynical or harsh. According to him when the writer tries to convey something merely for the purpose of moral teaching it does not attract anyone so he never criticized the human beings and their follies in a harsh or cynical manner e.g. through the swallow in “The Happy Prince” and nightingale in “The Nightingale and the Rose” he presented the whole situation in front of the people without being cynical and harsh. He always preferred to do so in a milder way. With the help of allegory, he was able to point out the follies and weaknesses of human beings without being cynical. In his short story “The Selfish Giant” he highlighted the feeling of selfishness through the character of a giant.
The giant in this story represents a materialistic person who is self-centered and mean. He is not ready to share his property with other people around, as he says, “My own garden is my own garden”. In this story, Oscar Wilde has presented the human follies through the character of the giant. The Giant is the symbol of selfishness to selflessness. This the transformation of giant shows that Wilde has shown the positive characteristics as well as negative characteristics of a human being by using symbolic characters and situations. Which are in fact important aspects of the device of allegory. Oscar Wilde was born in an age when the industrial revolution was in progress in the English society. People were using machines in different fields of life so their behavior also became machinery. They were devoid of feelings and emotions, they became selfish. In his short story “The Happy Prince”, he has exposed the miseries of poor people in a very artistic manner. For example, a beautiful rich girl was worried about her dress which she wanted to wear to a party. She is totally indifferent towards the miseries of poor people.
The story is mainly about the callous and heartless behavior of upper class towards the miseries and suffering of the lower class. Everybody is interested in his life: the people have no concern with others’ miseries. A statue is placed in the center of the city which is made up of stone, but ironically he is the only one in the city who can feel the miseries of the poor. Then he is assisted by migrating swallow to help the poor people of the city. The swallow contains a sympathetic feeling for the wretched people of the city. So he helps the happy prince and even sacrifices his own life when he decides to stay back to the prince when he becomes blind. Oscar Wilde has presented animal characters better than human beings which is an important aspect of allegory. These animal characters are offering help to others; the swallow takes a flight to do charity work for the happy prince. On his way, the swallow finds that rich people are busy in money making on the other hand poor people are suffering from hunger like the son of seamstresses. With the help of these allegorical characters and situations, Oscar Wilde has criticized his contemporary society in an artistic and subtle way without being rude. Oscar Wilde’s short stories have mainly dealt with the theme of love and sacrifice. So, with the technique of allegory, he has presented his themes artistically. As stated before, allegory makes readers think and get multiple underlying meanings of the author in an amusing way. So it provides a writer a chance to convey his message implicitly which is usually more effective than the explicitly conveyed message. In the story of “The Nightingale and the rose” Wilde has presented the positive feelings of love along with a negative feeling of selfishness and materialism which are found among human beings. The student and the girl whom he is in love with are shown as an embodiment of selfishness and materialism.
Whereas the Nightingale is an outstanding embodiment of selfless devotion. After his first collection of fairy tales came out, he emerged as an influential author. The British magazine Elegance praised his fairy tale ‘The Selfish Giant’ and regarded it as perfect work. His complete collection of fairy tales are said to be the quaintness of the pure English language. In his short stories he showed a picture of Victorian English society but his short stories, they portray human society in general and also contain the elements of universality. His short stories were and enjoyed by the people of all ages in the 19th century. Raby Petter has praised Oscar Wilde short stories by saying; “It is not only the collection of short stories meant only for children; they are studied in prose put for those who kept childlike faculties of wonder and joy” The criticism of Victorian society in Wilde’s fairy tales is quite apparent. As stated above that in his short stories he blended the real-life situations with the imaginary situation. His tales show the injustices committed by the powerful ruling class against the working class e.g. in his story The Devoted Friend’, the characters of Miller and Hans are symbolic.
The character of Miller is representing the ruthless and powerful ruling class, who remain oblivious to the problems of others. His short stories seem to reflect the indifferent attitude of the ruling class which was prevalent in his contemporary English society. On one level his fairy tales are very much interesting and amusing for young children because they have a lot of fantastical elements including symbolic setting, characters, and events. As Oscar Wilde himself once commented about his; “It is the duty of every father to write fairy tales for his children” In fact, he himself wrote fairy tales for his own children. And on the deeper level, his short stories contain deep criticism on his contemporary society, and he did all this in an indirect way by using the technique of allegory in his fairy tales. His characters and settings are allegorical. Encyclopedia Encarta has defined allegory as a “symbolic work”, a work in which characters are representing other things and symbolically expressing a deeper level often with spiritual, moral or political meanings. An allegory is a device used in literature, rhetoric, and art to signify a meaning that is not literal. When allegory is used in any piece, a device and a character are symbolic of a concept like reason and fortune symbolizes the character of everymen in the universe. In literature allegory has been frequently used sometimes are especially allegorical. Plato in Allegory of Cave and Boethius in Consolation of philosophy also used allegory in extended form.
In fact, Boethius’s Consolation becomes the inspiration for Dante who used the allegory in his main work “the divine comedy” He used extended allegory to symbolize the sins in particular. Dante is considered the master of allegory, “the divine comedy” was written in 1321. It was an imaginative and allegorical version of Christian afterlife and worldwide view. There are three parts of the divine comedy, namely; Inferno, Purgatorio, and paradise. Allegorical aspects in Inferno represents the Christian soul in seeing the sins, and the three beasts represent three types of sins first is self-indulgent, the violent and the malicious. “Morality plays” were the main features of medieval times. In the most famous medieval play “Everyman” the main character everyman is the allegory of the plight of all men in the face of temptation. Allegory has been used in classic children literature by different writers. A moral is often placed in the action and decisions of the characters, often the main characters in allegory are either animals or creatures of fantasy, Writers in different ages have been using allegorical elements in their writings. Oscar Wild was an awesome reader and took inspiration from these allegorical aspects in these fairy tales. These short stories have two levels of meaning. The apparent amusing tale is understandable for the reader. Oscar Wilde short story ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’, on one level it is a very interesting and amusing fairy yale but on the deeper level, it contains serious criticism and the selfish and money minded people of the 19th century of his contemporary society. Conclusion In this chapter we explored the historical background of allegory, starting from the origin of the word ‘allegoria’ meaning veiled language, and ending with the actual literature review. Thus characters and settings of his fairy tales are symbolic.
On one level they are very amusing but on a deeper level, they portray the situations of the 19th century and the behaviors of human beings. The titles of these fairy tales are also symbolic and ironical for example the happy prince who is made up of stone and is basically an individual who can feel the miseries of others in contrast to real flash made people who cannot fill that. Wilde criticized English society in particular by using the technique of allegory to present these issues to his readers. From this chapter, we may conclude that allegory from the time of its creation has been and is an absolutely thoughtful literary device as it up to the reader to think over it and understand the real meaning of the story which the writer intended to impart. In this graduation paper, we intend to explore the historical background of allegory, its definitions and to do a textual analysis of several short stories written by Oscar Wilde and to explore the allegorical aspects of his stories.
Differences Between “A Christmas Carol Novel” and “1951 Film Adaptation Scrooge”
Throughout the 1951 adaptation Scrooge, and the novel by Charles Dickens on which it is based, A Christmas Carol, several themes such as the supernatural and poverty are explored through the character of Scrooge. However, the film version makes room for many new aspects of his personality through actions not described in the book and differences to the original text. This essay will explore how the some of the film’s choices to add or extend scenes impacts the viewer’s perception of Scrooge. In the second stave Scrooge is visited by the first ghost, the Ghost of Christmas past. In the novel Dickens chooses to display four moments; the place where Scrooge grew up, the place in which he was an apprentice, people dancing happily during Christmas time and a husband telling his wife about seeing Scrooge sat alone.
Meanwhile in the movie, Scrooge’s memory of his apprenticeship is much longer as he is seen working, changing job and buying up the company. This longer view of his past not only establishes more clearly that he was poor as he discusses his poverty with his fiancé and shows that he became rich by buying the company, but it also allows for dialogues which reveal more about Scrooge’s past. For example, Scrooge states that “There is more in life than money” and he says that “Money isn’t everything”. This could be the director’s choice as to balance for the lack of figurative language present in the description that allows the reader to gain remarks about Scrooge’s character. The choice to show the same thought through two different ways at different times highlight how strongly he believed in this. The vision of Scrooge’s past may have also been prolonged to show how his character changed, going from poor to rich and obsessed about money and finally to humble and charitable again.
The film adaptation of the novel also shows his transition from poor to rich when he works as an apprentice; his employer affirms “Control the cashbox and you’ll control the world,” which Scrooge neither agrees nor denies. This proves significance as it is exactly what Scrooge displays through his actions in the present and it allows the viewer to see a possible that his boss may have been an influence in making him greedy which the reader doesn’t get in the book. Another important insight to Scrooge’s past is when Scrooge expresses that he thinks that the world is going to be a cruel place. This is ironic as in the present Scrooge contributes to making the world unpleasant through his melancholy, anger and greed and the thought may have been added to show the change. Towards the end of the novel and the film adaptation, Scrooge is brought to his grave by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, however in the film adaptation Scrooge lies down on grave in worry and fear, trying to comprehend whether what he sees is reality. This wasn’t described in the book and may just have been the choice of the director as there are few other actions suitable for that moment. However, it adds to the change in Scrooge as he is taking the possible future very seriously and is devastated and scared of what could happen. Adding to this, Scrooge repeats “Tell me I’m not already dead” and “I’m not the man I was” several times to show that he fears the future and has changed through the visits from the ghost. This could have been to replace the descriptions of fearful facial expressions which were presented in the book.
In the end of the film adaptation Scrooge wakes up after talking in his sleep. This showed that he was just dreaming, meanwhile in the book the narrator points out that he sees his bedposts but it isn’t explicit whether he woke up from a dream. However, the choice to make it a dream may still have been based on the narrative in the book which allows for open interpretation. In addition, the film had to present either that the ghosts were real or that it was a dream and the idea of him dreaming may have been easier to understand for the viewer. Another addition in the movie is the character of a maid. This creates contrast with Scrooge’s previous self as the maid is paid and he tried to live as cheaply as possible, eating cheap food, using little light, etc. The maid’s character is used to make the change in Scrooge more explicit as when he wakes up and she says it’s Christmas Day he is overly enthusiastic and happy about it. This makes her shocked and she asks “Are you quite yourself sir?” to which he replies “I don’t think so […] I hope not” in a jovial tone which shows yet again that he doesn’t want to be who he was before. The maid also screams as she is so confused by his actions and Scrooge points out that he is not mad and gives her money. This immediately allows the reader to see that he is not greedy anymore and feels sorry for the poor as he gives money after asking how much he pays her. Through writing, in the novel there is a gradual change through his interactions and dialogues with the ghost, however in the movie the addition there might have been the addition of the maid to allow for the opportunity of his actions to clearly demonstrate that he had changed and was cheerful and gleeful when he smiles for the first time in the movie.
In conclusion, the film prologues and adds several scenes to improve clarity and to give additional insights to Scrooge’s life, such as his transition to richness, his despair when he sees his grave and the change to his merry behaviour in the end. This may have also been to balance for the descriptions of his behaviour, emotions and surroundings which reveal the details on Scrooge’s change in the books.
Story Analysis of Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde: Money Doesn’t Buy You Happiness
I chose the tale about the Happy Prince. The story is about the statue of the prince who died, and who gave out all of his belongings to the poor with the help of the Swallow. The reasons why I chose, and like this tale are many.A long time ago, I read Oscar Wilde’s stories, but now I am trying to reach the deepest meanings of his work. The first thing which comes up to my mind is the question, why did the prince care after he died? Why didn’t he care while he was still alive? He was very happy. He enjoyed the happiness, life, and wealth. The writer never mentioned that the prince cared about his people during his life. All the houses, cars, money, and everything else is actually worth nothing.
We can be millionaires, have houses, villas, cars, everything we want, but in the end, we will all end up in the same box, just like the Italian proverb about the chess game says: “After the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box”. What’s really worth, and what really counts is what we do before we end up in that box. We are like timers, set up for a specific time. Every wasted second is a wasted opportunity for a good deed. Our deeds will remain even after our death. We may be forgotten, but our deeds will be remembered, and the best deed we do is the one which nobody knows we did.The prince symbolizes wealth, therefore this tale is primarily aimed at the wealthy ones.
The Swallow doesn’t care about the rubies, nor the gold, but about his travel. The Swallow symbolizes empathy in this tale, so the writer is giving a great lesson to all of us through this story. Wealth, joined with empathy equals greatness. The next question which came up to my mind is: “What actually is this greatness, and wealth?”. It is definitely not the gold, nor the rubies, nor to look like a beggar, nor being poor, but our actual deeds. That’s what makes us all humans. Our acts will determine our future. Our sacrifice for the good, and for the best is the key to our greatness. Just being humans is already great, indeed, but we can be even greater tough. We are the ones gifted with intelligence, let’s respect that. It sometimes feels like a loan given to us, so let’s use it, because even just a single smile is a good deed.
Oscar Wilde – the Iconic Personality from the Late Victorian Society
If we talk about the iconic personalities from the late victorian society then one name surely hits my mind – Oscar Wilde. He was known for his intellect, wisdom and humor which he passed on to the world through his plays and publications. To make a long story short, he was an Anglo-Irish author, playwright, commentator and a celebrity of the England in the late 19th century.Born to literate and cerebral Irish parents on 16th October, 1854 in Dublin, Wilde’s future was definitely bright. He was grown up as a bookish child who started attaining attention from the public with his writings in a very young age. At the age of 17, Wilde was rewarded with the Royal School Scholarship to attend the Trinity College in Dublin. At the age of 18, he won the highest honor award by receiving the college’s Foundation Scholarship. At the age of 20, he was represented as the Trinity’s best student in Greek. Continuing his academic success, at the age of 24, his poem “Ravenna” won the Newdigate Prize for the best English verse at Oxford. The point, where he got focussed on writings and poetry.
Wilde is not just known for his famous works like the “The Picture of Dorian Guy” and “The Importance of Being Earnest”, but he was also known for his contributions to freemasonry. Not to question the fact that freemasonry was an influence from his father, Sir William Wilde who was also a devoted mason saw an intimate connection with the Irish peasantry as a privileged access to a hidden form of knowledge. Interested to know Wilde’s masonic life? Let’s discuss in detail below.
Wilde introduced freemasonry in his life in the early twenties while he was pursuing graduation under Oxford University. He was an enthusiastic mason who spent his great portion of wealth on masonic gowns. Being a mason was a quite controversial for him as he was unfortunately let down by the masonry society. But anyways, Wilde took the masonry seriously and was an active participant in lodge affairs. In February 1875, Wilde initiated to fraternity in the Apollo University Lodge of Magdalen College, Oxford where he addressed his thoughts on life by stating “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”In April 1875, Wilde proudly passed to the Second degree at Apollo University Lodge.
In May 1875, He was raised to the Sublime degree of the Master Mason at Apollo University Lodge (now number 357). This fact was even commemorated on the Masonic First Day Cover.In November 1875, impressed with freemasonry, Wilde also joined the Churchill Lodge.In 1876, Wilde received his 18th degree of freemasonry in the Oxford University Also, In 1876, Wilde became the Inner Guard and in 1877 became the Junior Deacon at the Churchill Lodge. This event was reported in the Oxford Chronicle in May 1877.
In March 1878, Wilde successfully received the Mark Master degree at the University. Wilde was an active and hardworking dramatist in between the period of 1892 and 1895. His plays took the attention of the crowd because of the dialogues which were short, crisp and clever. In 1892, he produced the “Lady Windermere’s Fan”, “A Woman of No Importance” in 1893, and “An Ideal Husband” and “The Importance of Being Earnest” in 1895.In early 1895, Wilde took a legal action against the Marquess of Queensberry as he objected his closeness with his son Lord Alfred Douglas. After a month, his suit got declined and followed the countercharges which sentenced him for two years in a prison.
The life in prison brought a big transformation in terms of art. His first moving letter “De Profundis” was published in 1905 which was a formal apology to a friend written in the prison. His theme addressed himself as a scapegoat and different from other men or the one who bears blames for others. After releasing from prison, he wrote a poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898)” which addressed a man who murdered his mistress and was about to carry out a sentence of death but wilde took a blame on himself as a criminal. The poem stated – “I never saw a man who lookedWith such a wistful eyeUpon that little tent of blueWhich prisoners call the sky,And at every drifting cloud that wentWith sails of silver by.I walked, with other souls in pain,Within another ring,And was wondering if the man had done
A great or little thing,When a voice behind me whispered low,“That fellow’s got to swing.”He lived in Paris, France, thereafter being released from the prison. After composing rare and unique forms of writing through the 1880s, he developed into one of England’s loved and popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is memorialized for his epigrams, exuberant personality, plays and the way he survived during imprisonment, followed by his early death. In 1900, Wilde had developed cerebral meningitis and died on 30 November at the age of 46. He was later buried at the Cimetière de Bagneux outside Paris. Wilde profoundly stayed faithful to the principles of culture, fundamentals that he spelled out through his lectures and walked one through his work.
During his life he worked out of the box as a journalist, Regarded for his classy attires, impressive and powerful communication, and stinging wit, he had developed among the most well-known personages of his time.And, as far as Wilde’s Masonic career is concerned, It lasted for only four years which began and ended at the Magdalen college of Oxford. This is quite a short period but he took freemasonry like the plants take water. He was allured by the craft and the masonic degrees. He also participated in many of them during his masonic journey. In 1877, he even wrote a letter to his fellow Mason friend “William Ward” mostly known as “Bouncer” stating “I have got rather keen on Masonry lately, I believe in it awfully – In fact would be awfully sorry to have to give it up in case I secede from the Protestant Heresy. Hunter Blair had to give it up for a reason.”Did you know? Wilde’s very first play Vera or the Nililists, A Drama in a Prologue and Four Acts has masonic implications. Basically, written in 1880 and first produced in 1883 at New York.
At the end, I believe Oscar Wilde has suffered a lot of criticism in his short life but he still remained highly devoted to his work and fraternity. I hope you find this article useful and if you want to know more about his accomplishments. Drop your questions in the comment section below. I’d love to help!
The Doer of Good: an Intriguing Poem
An Analysis of an Oscar Wilde Poem
In “The Doer of Good,” one of Oscar Wilde’s “poems in prose,” he tells a story in which Jesus Christ returns to the land of the living and meets with people on whom He had previously performed miracles. The man He healed of leprosy is taking advantage of his life free of suffering and is living in selfish luxury; the blind man to whom He gave vision is using his sight to lust after beautiful women; a woman of whose sins He had forgiven is leading a sinful life because it is pleasant and, since she is forgiven for her sins, a relapse is only natural and there are no tangible repercussions; the man who had died and who He had brought back to life is weeping because He took him from Heaven and returned him to earth.
After inquiring about why these people are acting in this sinful manner, they each give their own responses which can be summarized in a simple sentence: “Well, what did you expect?” This suggests that despite the miraculous, mankind’s nature and apparent tendency to sin is very strong and difficult to overcome in the quest to practice theology and have faith. Another theme is that people are likely to forget kindness and take advantage of its superior results.
This poem is intriguing because it sheds an interesting light. It takes the intended good deeds of Christ and shows how His miracles ironically did not have the beneficial or inspiring effects that were intended. This goes along with a recurring theme of Wilde’s writing, that of hedonism: there is no right or wrong; there is only what gives a person pleasure and what does not. While I do not necessarily agree with them, I am intrigued by and respect pieces of writing like this that ridicule the beliefs of Christians. Because I have been raised a Catholic my entire life, it is always interesting to see the other side of the argument, the side of nonbelievers, and it is usually encouraging to know that, while many of these arguments have sound points, their logic is not flawless, which leaves the debate still open for interpretation.
As an English teacher from Maryland points out in his online blog, The Doer of Good does not hesitate to illustrate its tone. The first sentence is “It was night-time and He was alone.” In addition to revealing a crucial hint at the protagonist’s identity through use of the capital “H,” this sentence is also effective in that it creates a dark tone for the piece. Why emphasize that He is alone? It is likely that aloneness has a fearful connotations which add to the effect of the piece.
Furthermore, the nighttime setting denotes an absence of daylight which makes the story have obscure overtones. The darkness also has biblical symbolism; the dichotomy of light and darkness is an extended metaphor which is prevalent in the Bible, as the power of God is often described as light conquering the darkness. Thus, the setting of nighttime may symbolize a lack of faith or a location where Christ has less power than usual.
The aforementioned irony of the poem is established throughout, as Christ’s repeated investigation into the lives of the people who he has healed turns up with negative results each time. This emphasizes the secular themes of the poem, showing ironically how the great, miraculous gifts from God are abused immediately and used for trivial, sinful pursuits. Another example of irony, the Maryland teacher suggests, is that of the healed blind man: “He received physical sight from Christ, but by turning away from Him, the young man becomes blind to God’s grace.”
While his analysis seems rooted in the idea that Oscar Wilde wrote it to insult humanity for abusing the gifts of God, I believe that the poem’s true purpose was to demonstrate the author’s belief of the futility of faith and the ultimate uselessness of living a devoutly Christian life. In either case, Wilde certainly presents interesting concepts in The Doer of Good.
Concept of the City in Stories “Solomon’s Big Day” by Toure and “The Happy Prince” by Wilde
Literature has always played an important role in the life of society because it allowed artists to attract the attention of the audience to important issues, share different perspectives of common objects and ideas, and stimulate the imagination and creativity in common people. Most people tend to believe that the most important aspect in a piece of literature is the plot and main characters that transmit an author’s thoughts and provide valuable lessons that could be used in practice to improve the well-being. However, smaller elements of stories, such as styles and other aspects, can also hold significant meaning and illustrate artists perceive the world surrounding them with its people, objects, and existing issues. Additionally, these elements set the stage for the main action and emotionalize the story to catch the attention of the audience and communicate the ideas of the author in a better way. For example, a colorful and detailed picture of a city can show a lot about the lives of people, their daily routine and personal relations, and existing social problems. Moreover, even small differences in these elements can influence the perception of the audience and change the view of similar objects and ideas. Therefore it would be very helpful to analyze and compare the concept of the city in stories “Solomon’s Big Day” by Toure and “The Happy Prince” by Wilde to determine differences and similarities and try to analyze the impact on readers.
Both stories take place in great cities known for their wealth and prosperity as well as a variety of existing social problems, such as poverty, inequality, and corruption. However, details play an important role in these cases because they form the perception of these issues as well as the perception of the plot and the ideas of the artists. On the one hand, Toure sets the stage for the main action by showing that the story takes place in New York City. Specifically, he mentions famous places such as Central Park and Chinatown that serve as symbols for the city and tells its name at the end of the narrative to erase doubts in the minds of people who lack this knowledge. This information presented by the author influences the insight of the whole story by the audience because different people tend to have controversial opinions about New York: some consider it a place of great opportunities for the talented and others believe that only the ruthless can survive and grow in such a corrupt city. Moreover, people with different social and cultural background also have specific opinions about New York based on their personal experience.
On the other hand, in “The Happy Prince” Wilde does not tell the audience where the action takes place and simply mentions that the story takes place in a great city. Specifically, he describes such elements of the surrounding as a golden statue covered with leaves of gold and adorned with precious stones on a tall column, nobles who live in big palaces and visit grand balls, scientists, and charity children to show that the city is large and prosperous. However, the depicted city is abstract, which excludes the influence of personal views and experience on the perception of the story and allows the audience to concentrate on the plot and the ideas of the author.
But most importantly, both authors decided to illustrate their opinion about existing social problems by including them into the concept of a great city. However, they decided to focus the attention of the audience on slightly different issues. On the one hand, Toure concentrates on illustrating social inequality, corruption, and insensitivity. Specifically, Solomon’s father openly discusses the fact that African-Americans in New York still represent one of the most disadvantaged social groups oppressed by the rich and powerful that have not received equal rights and opportunities even with the formal proclamation of equality. Additionally, the same character adds to the description of the city by saying that having power and high social status, such as being a celebrity, allows a person the capabilities that are simply unavailable to common people. Moreover, the ruthless and cynical behavior of Miss Birdsong, Xander’s father, and journalists upon realizing Solomon’s talent and recognizing the value of his work show that New York is corrupt place with people that have for money, power, and popularity.
Wilde also attracts the attention of the audience to social problems common for big cities. Similarly to Toure, he addresses the issue of abuse of the low class by the rich who are represented by the seamstress and the Queen’s maid-of-honor respectively. Also, the fact that the seamstress does not have enough money to pay for medicine for her child also illustrates the issue of poverty that is missing in the story by Toure. Moreover, Wilde attracts the attention of the audience to the problems of domestic violence and vanity with the help of the match-girl and the young writer. Lastly, he illustrates the issue of corruption and insensitivity common for big cities by showing the arrogant and narcissistic attitude of the Mayor and full submission of the Town Councilors to his selfish decisions.
To conclude, both Wilde and Toure use such lesser element of the story as the concept of the city to influence the perception of the main plot and attract the attention of the audience to existing social problems. Specifically, Toure states that the action takes place in New York to address his personal opinions and experience of the readers and evoke their emotions and Wilde depicts an abstract city to avoid biased views and help the audience concentrate on main ideas. Additionally, both authors highlight the importance of such social problems as corruption and inequality. However, Toure puts a special emphasis on racism and the desire for power and money while Wilde focuses on illustrating poverty, vanity, and arrogance.
Nature of Aestheticism in Salome Play
Willfulness and Worldviews in Salomé
Of the many instances of conflict in Oscar Wilde’s decadent play Salomé, it would at first appear that the conflict between Salomé and her mother, Herodias, is downplayed, if not entirely absent from the play’s primary sources of tension. However, considering the play’s many differences (i.e. clashes) between cultures, customs, and the ever-present tension between traditional Victorian values and the encroaching principles of aestheticism, the subtle tension between mother and daughter, and their particular expressions of willfulness, is equally significant to understanding the shifting paradigms in Victorian England.
Salomé stands out as a play deeply rooted in seemingly irreconcilable differences. This level of conflict is introduced immediately, as we see the characters are all defined in terms of their many ethnic and religious backgrounds: polytheists (pagans), Syrians, Jews, Cappadocians, Romans, Nubians, and one staunch Christian vie for prominence and proclaim their various worldviews on the stage (197-98). This inevitably stirs up heated moments, most notably among the many subsets of Jews and their slightly different beliefs (200, 214-15), and between the boundless sensuality found in Herod’s Palace and the extreme asceticism of Jokanaan. Moreover, these moments of intense dispute feed into the heterogeneity among individuals in the play and reflect a similar lack of consensus in Victorian England.
It is on this stage of competing worldviews where we find Salomé, the pinnacle of sensuality, and Herodias, whose constant pragmatism in such a symbolic play adds a dimension of humor. On the surface, the relationship between these two is amicable. Herodias consistently chastises Herod for lusting after her own daughter, rather than censuring Salomé for any perceived impertinence, and she even defends Salomé’s actual impertinence when denying Herod his petty wishes (214). She even delights in her daughter’s willfulness: laughingly, she jibes to Herod, “You see how she obeys you” (221). Later, as Herod tries to renege his deal with Salomé, Herodias heckles him, reminding him, “Yes, you have sworn an oath. Everybody heard you. You swore it before everybody” (228) and that Herod is ridiculous for suggesting peacocks are a worthy substitute for Jokanaan’s head (230). Many of these instances of willfulness are met with Herod’s ineffective rebuke (“Peace, woman! It is not to you I speak” ), which serves to remind the audience that Herodias is a source of power and influence—a powerful, influential worldview, that is. Furthermore, the nature of Herodias’ willful speech against her husband is at its core another facet of her pragmatism. To Herodias, Herod’s supplications to Salomé are every bit as ridiculous as the concept of the Moon being like a drunken woman or believing in prophets (212, 214).
Salomé, on the other hand, presents a noticeably different style of willfulness throughout the play. Unlike her mother, Salomé goes out of her way to espouse a more sensual, manipulative worldview, which we can see during her solicitations to Jokanaan, the Young Syrian, and Herod. When she is informed that she is forbidden to see Jokanaan, she implores to the Young Syrian, “Thou wilt do this thing for me” and that she will gaze upon him if he does, until he eventually succumbs to her seduction and relents (203-205). Once she is granted access to Jokanaan, she wastes no time in characterizing his body as an ever-morphing thing of grotesque beauty. His body is at once “white like the lilies of a field that the mower hath never mowed” and “like a plastered wall where vipers have crawled” (208); regardless of whether he is a forbidden delight or a loathsome creature, he is subject to her sensual characterization of his body. As with the Young Syrian, Salomé is likewise manipulative in her interactions with Herod, using his obsession with her beauty to ensure the execution of Jokanaan, who rejected her. Unlike Herodias, whose influence is based on a more or less objective worldview, Salomé embraces her sensual nature in order to manipulate the desires of others for her own benefit.
On the surface it would appear that mother and daughter have formed a unique coalition against the improper advances of Herod. It is only on closer inspection that these two present two distinct types of worldviews, which lends them distinctive styles of rebellion and willfulness. Salomé creates the realities of those around her, specifically that of Jokanaan’s body, and allows this reality to be shaped by mercurial whims; Herodias accepts her version of reality based on superficial observation and enforces it with pragmatic correction. Furthermore, through their willfulness, both can be seen as representing the major conflict (and, perhaps, reconciliation) between traditional Victorian values and Wilde’s version of aestheticism. One subtle but telling example is that Salomé never addresses Herodias, despite Herodias’ many attempts to address Salomé. Mother and daughter simply do not exchange conversation during the play. The fact that they merely talk around each other suggests that there may be no reconciliation between their two worldviews—that utilitarian Victorian values of pragmatism and an unrelenting view of reality cannot usefully complement an aesthetic worldview, in which the subjective piquing of the senses overrules (or defies) a consensus of Truth. On the other hand, the shared goal of subverting Herod’s authority suggests that, while the opposed worldviews may not usually be complementary, they may coexist and share similar agendas. At the very least, they may not always be diametrically opposed.
As Salomé illustrates, the nature of aestheticism is to be subjective, to enjoy and produce social change, and to unabashedly stimulate the senses. Traditional Victorian values, as espoused by Herodias, may generally appear to be a constant competitor in the arena of worldviews, but as the willful intentions and subtle conflict between Salomé and Herodias suggest, it may be more the case that Wilde perceives these as complementary rather than competitive.
Effects of Abuse on Dorian Grey
Painting a Picture: Effects of Abuse on the Life of Dorian Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is a novel published in the late 1800’s and gained much notoriety in the public eye. It details the life of a young man, Dorian Gray, in upper middle class, or bourgeois, society. Throughout his life, and the novel, Dorian’s pleasant and handsome exterior causes people to assume he is just as pleasant and appealing on the inside. While initially true, a distinct change occurs and is often attributed to and marked by Dorian’s introduction to Lord Henry Wotton and his, “very bad influence” (Wilde 18). At this point, Dorian’s handsome likeness, conveyed in a portrait, begins to have its attractive qualities deteriorate. Dorian soon realizes that the painting ages and becomes increasingly horrid because of his various sins in place of his physical body. In analysis of the text, frequently Lord Henry’s influences are held responsible for Dorian’s transition and thus the distortion of the painting; however, further analysis of Dorian’s rearing shows abuse to be another, more prominent, reason for Dorian’s deterioration of character. Utilizing a secondary source, quotations from the novel and introducing relevant psychological theory, comprehension of the true motivations and catalyst for Dorian’s actions are uncovered.
Dorian’s background and rearing play a central role to his deterioration. It is these insights into Dorian’s past, and its history of abuse, that should be analyzed thoroughly by the reader for better comprehension. It is revealed to the reader that Dorian was orphaned since birth due to the cruelty and manipulation of his grandfather (his mother’s father). Dorian’s grandfather, Lord Kelso, proves to be a mean and cruel old man through characterizations given by Dorian as well as third parties, such as Lord Henry’s Uncle George. In his account of Lord Kelso, Lord Henry’s uncle details the plot Kelso formed to have Dorian’s father, described as, “a penniless fellow” (Wilde 31), killed in a duel. Making his own daughter into a widow, Kelso forced her to come back and live with him. Fully aware of her father’s role in the death of her husband, Dorian’s mother, Margaret Devereux, never spoke to her father again and died within a year. Leaving behind her orphaned son to be raised in a hostile environment, under Lord Kelso’s care. Lord Henry summarizes the tale of Dorian’s past as, “A beautiful woman risking everything for a mad passion. A few wild weeks of happiness cut short by a hideous, treacherous crime. Months of voiceless agony, the boy left to solitude and the tyranny of an old and loveless man” (Wilde 33). These portrayals from a third-party outsider give an indirect characterization of Dorian’s grandfather and allow for the reader to realize the extent to which Kelso was such a “mean dog”. Moreover, they contribute to the readers understanding of the kind of environment in which Dorian was forced to grow up; one devoid of all love and companionship (Rashkin).
The concept of Dorian’s abandonment and abuse in his early life having negative repercussions in his adulthood is not an innovative idea, however. Ester Rashkin has written an article on this notion and its effects on the plots development throughout the novel. In her article, Rashkin strengthens these ideas by stating, “The implication that Dorian was unloved and in some way mistreated by his grandfather is reinforced later when Dorian decides to hide the cruelly altered portrait upstairs in the old schoolroom, a room built by his now dead grandfather…” (Rashkin 4). Rashkin goes on to quote the novel’s description of the room Dorian was housed while under his grandfather’s care, the same room Dorian uses to house the increasingly less attractive picture of himself. Wilde explains on page 104 that Lord Kelso had the room built especially, “for the use of the little grandson whom, for his strange likeness to his mother, and also for other reasons, he had always hated and desired to keep at a distance”. An indication of origins of Dorian’s emotional and potentially physical abuse has been fully revealed to the reader at this point. His grandfather purposely kept Dorian at arm’s length physically and emotionally to avoid the guilt he felt and the constant remind of his deeds. Hence forth, the dastardliness of Dorian’s deeds increase exponentially while his reputation plummets proportionally. All because of his grandfather’s coldness and abuse?
Yes, modern psychology has done much research on the topic of abuse, especially that beginning at an early age, like Dorian’s. An article published in Behavioral Neurology examines the effects of emotional and physical abuse on young children between the ages of 2 and 5, approximately when Dorian would have been left in the care of his grandfather. The study found, “a cognitive impairment in the institutionalized children in several measures of attention, memory and executive functions” (Cardona et al. 291). Note that the study refers to children who have been placed into the institution of orphanages as institutionalized. The effects damaged the children with lasting results, most prominently on executive functioning. Meaning, the children’s ability to function mentally as well as have self-restraint and control over themselves was damaged.
Extrapolating these psychological theories to Dorian, they provide an explanation for his actions and thus show the significance of his abuse in propelling the plot of the novel. Without proper functioning of his executive faculties Dorian is doomed to make rash decisions. For example, his proposal to Sibyl Vane. Initially infatuated with the girl, he soon regrets his decision upon seeing her poor performance the next night. Showcasing his immature faculties and launching himself into a commitment without fully considering its implications affirms the above study’s results. Dorian can be seen saying, “… you have killed my love… My God! how mad I was to love you! What a fool I have been! You are nothing to me now” (Wilde 75). Dorian completely disregards all his emotion for Sibyl on the basis that she is no longer a good actress. In the same scene, Dorian then reciprocates the abuse he experienced from his grandfather. He begins to verbally abuse Sibyl, calling her worthless, leaving her crying on the ground while she, “…lay there like a trampled flower” (Wilde 76). Acting as a singular case study, if one overlays the proven theory from Cardona et al onto Dorian, a clear support for the study’s results is recognized.
While it is notable that abuse has a significant impact on its recipient, its cyclical nature is also of cause for concern and is recognizable in the case of this novel. The consultation of outside sources provides additive support by stating, “Abuse is identifiable as being cyclical in two ways; it is both generational and episodic. Generational cycles of abuse are passed down, by example and exposure, from parents to children” (allaboutlifechallenges.org). Dorian uses these learned behaviors from his grandfather and replicates them later in his own adult life. Notably with the Sibyl, as mentioned above, he begins the cycle of abuse once again. However, Dorian more closely replicates the abuse of his grandfather in his dealings with the painting. Dorian, a constant reminder of Lord Kelso’s horrendous actions, is stashed away upstairs to keep out of sight. So too is the increasingly unsightly portrait of Dorian stashed away in the same room (Rashkin 70). Being exposed to a similar style of dealing with issues, Dorian replicates his grandfather’s behavior in his dealings with the painting. This generational abuse, while not as drastic as Dorian abusing a child or Sibyl, explains Dorian’s action and showcases his motivations behind the behavior, although not excusing it, providing a significant source of plot development.
With the cyclical nature of the abuse completing its revolution and being utilized as impetus for Dorian’s criminal actions, a focus on the effects of the abuse received by Dorian from his grandfather shall be analyzed. Within the novel Lord Henry is the first to take note of the deep seeded anger and desires present within Dorian. Lord Henry says, “You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your rose-red youth and your rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame—” (Wilde 19). This is the beginning of Harry’s hold on Dorian, however, what is seen superficially by most as Harry’s control can be further analyzed to be Harry’s release of something deeper within Dorian. That is what Harry is trying to tap into with the prior quotation, the already rooted darkness within Dorian.
Wilde carefully organizes the plot to allow it to develop from Dorian’s abuse in his childhood. Through analysis of psychological studies, it can be noted that not only is Dorian more likely to have poor executive function, but also have a propensity towards criminal action. The anger and emotion Lord Henry releases within Dorian are expressed in his societal actions. Dorian develops a reputation for shady and criminal actions. Dorian’s once close friend describes the life Dorian has led thus far by saying, “You have gone from corruption to corruption, and now you have culminated in crime” (Wilde 145). This distinct shift to crime that is mentioned refers to the murder that Dorian had just recently committed. This crime and subsequent ones are not without their proper motivation.
A modern study shows that researched the effects of emotional or physical abuse occurring in childhood on criminality in adulthood. The study found that physical abuse alone was not as strong an influencer on criminality in adulthood compared to emotional abuses effect. Moreover, if the assumption that Lord Kelso abused Dorian physical is incorrect then the evident emotional abuse is adequate in causing this criminality effect. The study states in its results, “…physical and emotional abuse predicted childhood antisocial behavior…which, in turn, predicted later adult crime… Furthermore, emotional abuse predicted adult crime directly as well…” (Jung et al.). The results of the study show that psychologically Dorian maintains a potential for crime since an early age. His potential is actualized throughout the novel stemming from the abuse he received at an early age.
Having now analyzed the effects of abuse on Dorian’s mental faculties and identifying his psychological propensity towards crime, their effects on perpetuating the plot is clear. Still, Lord Henry’s influences on Dorian should not be overlooked within the novel. However, they are not the singular cause of Dorian’s actions. Dorian has been abused emotional and potentially physically as well, trapping him in a cycle of abuse. With the utilization of modern psychological research and studies, the psychological turmoil within Dorian is evident to the reader. This turmoil should be held more so responsible for Dorian’s actions than Lord Henry’s influences routinely are in the analysis of the novel. Abuse and its cyclical nature forces Dorian to fight an uphill battle against his psyche. Accounting for, but not excusing, Dorian’s abysmal behavior towards Sibyl, his poor decision making process when tempted by Lord Henry, and developing from an innocent boy to dying in a life of crime.