Homosexuality in Oscar Wilde's Work
"I turned half way around and saw Dorian Gray for the first time. I knew that I had come face to face with someone whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself" (7). During the Victorian era, this was a dangerous quote. The Victorian era was about progress. It was an attempt aimed at cleaning up the society and setting a moral standard. The Victorian era was a time of relative peace and economic stability (Marshall 783). Victorians did not want anything "unclean" or "unacceptable" to interfere with their idea of perfection. Therefore, this quote, taken from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, brimming with homosexual undertones, was considered inappropriate. Due to the time period's standards, Oscar Wilde was forced to hide behind a thin layer of inference and parallel. Wilde was obsessed with the perfect image. Although he dressed more flamboyantly than the contemporary dress, it was to create an image of himself. Wilde was terrified of revealing his homosexuality because he knew that he would be alienated and ostracized from the society. Through his works, Oscar Wilde implicitly reflected his homosexual lifestyle because he feared the repercussions from the conservative Victorian era in which he lived.
Oscar Wilde was born in 1854 and led a normal childhood. After high school, Wilde attended Oxford College and received a B.A. in 1878. During this time, he wrote Vera and The Importance of Being Earnest. In addition, "for two years Wilde had dressed in outlandish outfits, courted famous people and built his public image" (Stayley 317). Doing so earned Wilde a job with Richard D' Oyly, a producer. His task was to advertise opera in America. While in America, Wilde not only found a producer for Vera, but also wrote The Duchess of Padua for the American actress, Mary Anderson (Stayley 317).
Upon his return to England in 1883, Wilde began lecturing on his experiences in America. This is how he came to meet Constance Lloyd, whom he later married on May 29, 1884. The couple had two children together. However, the marriage began to have problems after Wilde met Canadian, Robert Ross, which "began his involvement in the disordered, destructive homosexual lifestyle so luridly suggested in The Picture of Dorian Gray and catalogued in his sensational trials" (Stayley 318). Robert Ross forced Wilde to confront the homosexual tendencies that he had been trying desperately to suppress. A whole new world opened for Wilde, and his only resource in which to channel this new energy was through his literary works.
In 1888, Oscar Wilde published a set of fairy tales, The Happy Prince and Other Tales and "The Young King." These stories, "revealed another approach to moral situations and human relationships" (Stayley 319). The fairy tales were perhaps the first time Wilde introduced...