Oscar Wilde by Emma Wright

History is in the Making 16-18-year-olds 3rd Prize Competition Winner

‘This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes, or I do.’ An everyday mundane object such as ‘wallpaper’ seems an easy opponent in a battle, yet this simile clearly portrays a feeling of struggle and withdrawal from a long, exhausting life. These sadistically comic words are the last spoken by my favourite author, playwright and poet: Oscar Wilde. When I was younger, one of my favourite books was ‘The Moonlight Dreamers’ by Siobhan Curham. The short book followed four young friends who, every time they met up, recited the quote ‘Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.’ I resonated with this passage because I believe that it stands for looking deeper, and seeing the beauty hidden in painful, unfair or ugly situations. Hence, his ‘punishment’ is described to be simply ‘see[ing] dawn before the rest of the world’, a prospect that wouldn’t be viewed as negative by the ‘average’ person, but rather as enchanting and spectacular. Here, perhaps he is suggesting that the burdens we come across in daily life are interpreted as quite the opposite to a ‘dreamer’. This interpretive quotation is from the one and only: Oscar Wilde. After cherishing this particular book in my childhood, throughout my life, I’ve gained more and more knowledge on Wilde, and only become more fascinated and intrigued about his life and work. Oscar Wilde’s only novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, was published in 1891, four years before he was imprisoned on charges of ‘gross indecency’. Evidently, the 19th century was a time when homosexuality was viewed as wrongful and worthy of imprisonment, and there were many speculations regarding Wilde’s own sexuality, heavily influenced by this gothic tragedy and its protagonist. Ambition and greed: two words that perfectly encapsulate ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. The story follows Dorian: a young, influential man who comes from a high-class family of wealth and admirable reputation. However, Dorian seeks a much different life than he should: one of constant pleasure and eternal youth, influenced by Lord Henry, who acts as a motivating figure towards Dorian’s downfall. Naive and hubristic Dorian Gray makes the ultimate sacrifice of his own soul in return for his beauty and youth and ultimately ‘switches lives’ with a painting of himself. In return, the portrait grows old and repulsive in his place. In my opinion, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ definitely warps any stereotypes of classic reads being ‘boring’ and ‘incomprehensible’ and Wilde’s writing needs to be cherished in its scarcity for years to come. But why was this his only published novel? Could we have received more work from Oscar Wilde that makes readers question the true purpose of life, if his own personal life hadn’t been so corrupted by pre-modern society?

Emma Wright (16) from Barton Peveril VI College won 3rd place for the 16-18 years category for the History is in the Making competition. In response to winning, they said:

I really enjoyed the experience of writing this because I’ve never really condensed my entire thoughts and opinions on one writer into an essay, so it was interesting to see which details stood out in my mind as the most important to summarise Wilde entirely. I chose to write about Oscar Wilde because I would love for more people to discover and appreciate his work!

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