Between the years of 1837 and 1901, British history experienced a revolutionary period of economic and cultural growth. The new wealth that came with expansion created new class structures as an age of domesticity was inspired. As a result of this, the art world changed too. Writers became realistic as they believed they were serving a higher moral purpose while creating. They wrote of actual and practical life in the form of dramatic monologues. Visual imagery illustrated their emotions while their tone and sound reflected the poems meaning. Though many authors became known during this time period, Oscar Wilde is –debatably- one of the most controversial poets of the Victorian Era.
Otherwise known as the ‘first modern man’, Wilde was born on the 16th of October in 1854. He notably attended Porotra Royal School in Enniskillen, Trinity College in Dublin and Magdalen College in Oxford during his early education. During this time his poetic notoriety began to grow; in 1879, his first collection of poetry was published. After several years of touring countries and playwriting he married Constance Lloyd, with whom he had two sons. In order to advance his reputation, Wilde cultivated his own “aesthetic code of life”, stating that “a man who does not think for himself does not think at all.” (EPG Bio).He dressed in a way that did not fit domestic sensibilities and in doing so, attracted both detractors and admirers. His literary work followed this pattern.
Wilde held the belief that style outweighed sincerity or substance. Therefore, his aesthetic way of being and writing reflected and perhaps helped in molding the image of a Victorian author. As Wilde was gifted with an early affinity for language, his attention paved towards form and the nuances of wording while he wrote. His favorite poetic device was imagery; namely, morbid imagery. Accordingly, early viewers found this to be deeply distasteful after the age of Romantics. Unlike many writers of his time, Wilde felt that “life does not just contain pleasure”, and that “there is great importance in sorrow” (Lit Net). Quite befitting a Victorian poet, his favorite stylistic device is the paradox. His most playful uses of both imagery and paradoxes can be found in The Picture of Dorian Gray, what was said to be one of the more conflicting -morally and aesthetically- books of his time.
That very book played a key role in Wilde’s ultimate demise. Not soon after his marriage, Oscar Wilde began confronting homosexual urges that had been with him since grade school. Upon coming to the realization of his sexual orientation, his work flourished. As such, the risk of being ‘found out’ did too. Additionally, The Picture of Dorian Gray has homoerotic themes that baffled his audience. A secret affair he had with another man was found out by both the public and the father of the aforementioned lover. Wilde took the father to court in a libel situation and ended up in prison, charged for ‘gross indecency’. His...