``A map with utopia'': Oscar Wilde's vision for social change

Jody Lauren Price, University of Rhode Island


The central concern in the published works of Oscar Wilde is his belief in the need for social change in Victorian society. The means by which this change will occur is developed and defined through his entire literary career. But even as a young writer, Wilde is clear that change will be initiated by the individualist who has been successful in rejecting the conventional morals of the day. This person will actualize what Wilde believes is the innate goodness of the human being freed from social restraints.^ The early works of Wilde, the poetry, short stories, and fairy tales, show fragmentary glimpses of this vision for social change as he attempts to find an effective form in which to establish a coherent, carefully worked out philosophy. With the publication of his first novel, the definition of the individualist becomes clearer. His essays continue to refine this person's role in social change and develop more thoroughly Wilde's claim that only through the appreciation of the beauty of art produced by the individualist will change occur. The drama provides for the Victorian audience a glimpse of its own hypocrisy and intolerance and continues to establish the individualist as the means by which such social ills will be eliminated. The literature written as a result of Wilde's prison experience simply reinforces his carefully worked out philosophy even after he has endured great physical and psychological suffering. Although his incarceration broke his health and spirit and led to a premature death, it allowed him to reaffirm those ideals by which he wrote and which should now establish him as a major literary figure of his period. ^

Subject Area

Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Jody Lauren Price, "``A map with utopia'': Oscar Wilde's vision for social change" (1988). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI8901722.