Oscar Wilde Individualism Essay

Good Essays
The famous Irish writer Oscar Wilde is perhaps best known for his individualistic ideas about art and life as well as for his homosexuality, which was not only frowned upon in Victorian society, but illegal. Despite this however, Wilde was influenced heavily by the inescapable pressure from society to conform. He revelled in being a part of the Victorian upper class, which had strict rules, whether spoken or unspoken, to dictate the behaviour of everyone in high society. The four comedic plays that centred on satirizing this very society earned Wilde most of his fame, especially The Importance of Being Earnest, an amusing story focusing on pretending to be someone else for the sake of both reputation and pleasure. After his harsh 2-year imprisonment…show more content…
Individualism is exactly what Wilde eventually chose when he expressed his homosexuality in his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas. The reason for this choice of self-expression is explained in De Profundis, when Wilde affirms that he “amused [him]self with being a flâneur, a dandy, a man of fashion. [He] surrounded [him]self with the smaller natures and the meaner minds… Tired of being on the heights, [he] deliberately went to the depths in the search for new sensation” (Wilde, 2007). In this example, Wilde compares “the heights” to standard Victorian morality and “the depths” to his true self, which he then seeks to express in order to achieve more happiness (“a new sensation”) than conforming to society could ever bring him. Also in De Profundis, Wilde reveals that he achieved his goal of more fulfilling happiness: “When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realising what I am that I have found comfort of any kind” (Wilde, 2007). Wilde echoes this same idea of individualism for the sake of happiness in The Importance of Being Earnest when Gwendolen and Cecily confront each other about their respective engagements to Ernest Worthing. The fact that this forces Jack and Algernon to reveal their true selves, even though they know their…show more content…
He also reveals his increased individualism through the contrasting tones of De Profundis (written during and after prison) and The Importance of Being Earnest (written before prison). While Earnest is cheerful and extravagant to appeal to society, De Profundis is sad and realistic, showing that Wilde no longer cared what society thought about him after his exile from the upper class lifestyle. In addition, Earnest’s exaggerated, theatrical, happy ending evokes a distinct feeling that Wilde means the direct opposite. Especially knowing that the play was written as satire, it seems unlikely that he really believed that all the characters in that situation would end up with exactly what they wanted and no consequences. Jack’s final line, “I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest” (Wilde, 2005, p.79), seems especially sarcastic, and rather than saying that being honest (“earnest”) is the reason everyone ends up perfectly content, it reads as a warning that unless one maintains society’s definition of “earnest”, he will inevitably suffer the
Get Access