Friday, June 1, 2007

things you probably didn't know about Oscar Wilde

Off to grade AP exams in the morning. (I did this last year, and it's sort of like summer camp for English teachers, only with a whole bunch of Very Bad Essays thrown in. It is no longer a mystery to me why I got a 5 on this exam, lo these many years ago.)

By way of illustrating what I'm in for, I attach a composite essay, cobbled together from the more amusing or alarming bits of last year's exams. (I have yet to encounter an individual student who believed that Oscar Wilde lived simultaneously in the Industrial Revolution, the Elizabethan era, eighteenth-century New England, medieval times, the South, the Revolution-Reformation, and the seventeenth century, but after reading 850 of these things last year, it would not surprise me at all if such a student existed. For the record, we are not allowed to deduct points for historical ignorance, however outrageous.)

Lady Windermere’s Farm

Playboy. Now that is something that would never have been tolerated in 1892 when Oscar Wildes Lady Windermere’s Fan was produced.

This was the start of the Industrial Revolution, a movement which would change the scope of the history forever. With the Seneca Falls convention just around the corner, it seemed as though the whole world would explode. With the Lord Darlington being the only male it is true that he must be the only one who can keep the reform from stopping, but as the closing line shows in the end he is getting reformed also and is unable to stop the growing revolutionary fever.

The Elizabethan era was filled with prestige Lords and admirable Duchess’. Fancy parties, wearing wigs, and acting proper while enjoying a cup of tea were the highlights of life. This society is repetitive and dull, with the next best thing being someone’s birthday. Balls were very popular and only the whose-who were invited. In this time of History it was always a thing to say anything about any one because there was nothing better to say. Those characters had desires to want anything and they would do anything for it even if it would cost them their face. They are victims of stereotypes and labes and because they recide in the nineteenth century there is not much they can do about it.

Wilde can give the reader an interesting insight into the world because he was lived in. In his play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Wilde points out several problems with the Elizabethan society he grew up in. He hides his daggers under plain sheets.

I believe that the genre of this playwright is hypocratical. The playwright does what it suppose to do give us a taste on how the main characters or the characters act, smell, look, talk. Due to the type of language they use, I can infer that they’re all from the 18th century New England. All the words are mixed up in Shakespears plays and in this one they are not.

Without characters, books, plays, and movies would not exist. Characters are very valuable; in modern literature and in past. Each of the characters plays a trivial role in presenting the zeitgeist since it is a play and they have to act.

The 1892 play, “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” depicts typical Southern society. Society is portrayed as a superficial, hardass that exhiles those that do not conform. A society is one that consists of high, middle, and low class people, each with their own individual way of life. This passage is about three high-class officials from the town. They’re population is made up of Duchess, lords, and ladys. Therefore showing that the time of the society is the mideval times. The society they live in is about high class and of gods and goddesses. It seems to be a normal society, for instance in this section of the playwright they talk about their houses. The reader can tell they have houses because they say they do.

The upper class worry that “the most dreadful people seem to go everywhere,” seaping like toxic waste that envelopes the entire town. The characters discuss how everything is “said behind” their back when in fact they all say “undrinkable” thing either to each other when they do not realize it or behind each others back. Altogether these characters reveal the utter political atmosphere prevalent among the idol rich, and the contrast between idealism and the shells of jade taken on by those too sure of their standing among Humanity. The purpose of all this is to show that beneath the sheep’s clothing of civilized society there still remains the harsh and indignant arrogance that makes jackasses of us all. These people are a waste of life and should be outcaste and alienated.

The time period is in the Revolution-Reformation as the women feel that they are being “elbowed into the corner” and want equality from the men. Women being under men and divorce was a big part of the nature of their society. The women of this scene seem like the stereotypical 17th century women. The female characters in this exerpt: Duchess of Berwick and Lady Windermere are so aristocratic in nature and so full of hot air that even someone who has committed a scandal like Lord Darlington seems like a Christ figure. The role of men as husbands is as inferior as clowns at a circus.

Moral values are like a dead rat in your house. It’s easy to find ... but you would rather not. The values of these high society people differ from honours to deuces. The Duchess of Berwick show her high society values by complaining about the “tea at Lady Markby’s,” which shows that she values tea.

Duchess of Berwick says “The most dreadful people seem to go everywhere,” meaning everyone seems to go everywhere but him, he is extradaniray and goes to different places. Although the Duchess seems uphalled at the dreadful people she speaks of, they are not dreadful in self, but dreadful in economy. She puts herself on a pedal stool. From the very first lines the Duchess does not want Darlington to “know” her daughter, presumably in the biblical sense. Teenagers should take inconsiderate of themselves to listen to their parents for instance their mothers, because they have experienced a lot of things in their days that can give you guys lessons.

The character Lord Darlington is picked up to be as this man who in some sense doesn’t have all his stuff and may have a few screws loose in his head. He is a foolish man who lives his life through livelyhood. Lord Darlington seems to be a free lancing bachelor. It is obvious through his dialogue that he is an untellectual. His mind and soul present a damp and putrid undertaking. He would be classified today as a Jerk. He is portrayed as a charmer and a rouge. His speeches provide an image that in today’s terms would be a high class mafia boss. It is clear that Lord Darlington is ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan,’ for when he departs, he continues the farewell by ensuring another meeting. He brings people to him then he’ll never let go. Kinda like a quick sand. He is somewhat sexus but at the same time wise and trivial. He compares husbands to “odd tricks,” comparing wives to prostitutes. So the lord has engraved something in the back of the morals around him.

Throughout the passage Lady Windermere conveys herself as a parrot. The author allows us to see this by slowly peeling back the women’s thoughts like a banana peel.

So in conclusion and in summary, George Orwell has done an amazing job in telling us so little, yet making the readers understand so much about the characters and there society through an extremely small amount of dialogue. Just think, all of these years separate that play from today and we still have the same people.


Chertiozhnik said...

"Balls were very popular" sums it up neatly.

Fretful Porpentine said...

I think my favorite unintentional innuendo is "Wilde can give the reader an interesting insight into the world because he was lived in," but that one's a close second.

Lea said...

My favorite line is "All the words are mixed up in Shakespears plays and in this one they are not."

But the whole thing is pretty brilliant.

heu mihi said...

"The reader can tell they have houses because they say they do." That's a nice, undisputable fact; I'm glad that the author is picking up on the big picture.

And what's with this "shells of jade" business?

Fretful Porpentine said...

I think the "shells of jade" business is meant to be a poetic way of saying they're jaded, but it doesn't quite work.