Oscar Wilde is more than a famous writer. He is larger than life, flamboyant and unique, a true Liberace or Andy Warhol of the Victorian era. The comparison with these two 20th century icons is quite accurate. Oscar Wilde was wildly creative (pun intended), dressed in eye-catching clothes and had a lifestyle that did not conform to the norms of the day.
Without exaggeration, we can say that Oscar Wilde is the first person who was famous for being famous, much like Paris Hilton or the Kardashian family of today. However, behind the outrageous public image, there was a lot of substance to Oscar Wilde.
Look at one of his best-known plays, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, for example. It is a joy to read – with remarkable characters, witty dialogue and surprising cliffhangers and an absolutely unexpected finale. It can be a source of writing inspiration to any 21st-century author, because the language and style are fresh and easy to understand.
How Did Oscar Wilde Become a Famous Writer?
Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1854, Oscar Wilde learned from his mother, Lady Jane Wilde, the importance of building a strong self-image. This kind of education was laid on the fertile soil of an active and creative imagination and striving to become someone.
In the late 1870s, when he was a student at Oxford, he confessed to his friends: “I’ll be a poet, a writer, a dramatist. Somehow or other I’ll be famous, and if not famous, I’ll be notorious.” And he started writing stories, plays, and poems, while making himself useful to publicists, and famous artists who could help him in his career. He was a personal shopper for these people, and demonstrated great taste in selecting outfits. He translated texts from Greek.
Despite these efforts, he did not become the famous writer he wished to become until late 1881. A theatre impresario, Richard D’Oyly Carte offered him a lecture tour in America to promote satire to the young nation craving for imported culture. Oscar Wilde was 27 years old by now, his finances were poor, and his first play, “Vera” had proven a failure.
What is really obvious from studying Oscar Wilde as a famous writer and as a famous character of his era is the perfect match between the two. Oscar Wilde is 100% genuine in everything he does. His writing is always surprising, from in-depth essays on aesthetics to unapologetic satire of the society.
In his own words: “A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.” And he also misbehaved in his personal life, first marrying a young lady who brought a consistent dowry and then divorcing her (something that simply did not happen in Victorian England).
And from writing stories and plays to working as a journalist for a women’s magazine (The Lady’s World which he renamed The Woman’s World), Oscar Wilde proved a great versatility in writing styles.
As he himself expressed: “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative”. From this point of view an author has a lot to learn from the sheer comparison between the two best known works this famous writer created.
The Picture of Dorian Grey – Mystery and Exquisite Detail
With The Picture of Dorian Grey, Oscar Wilde created a larger than life character, still referred to in popular culture. The handsome young man with a portrait in the attic, which ages instead of him, is a constant source of inspiration. From scriptwriters to songwriters, a throng of 20th and 21st century artists reinvent and revert to Dorian Grey.
But this novel is more than just about an iconic character. The writing itself is exquisite, with a focus on details and an elaborate language. If an author wants to polish their style, find writing inspiration and enlarge their vocabulary, The Picture of Dorian Gray is the go-to novel.
The Importance of Being Earnest – Sharp Dialogue and Bubbly Humor
Taking on a strict society and exposing its weaknesses and dark secrets may not appear productive for anyone who depends on that society to buy his work and make a living. But Oscar Wilde is fully unapologetic when it comes to his art.
“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all”, he affirmed. And in The Importance of Being Earnest, he gives one of the best examples of play writing. The famous writer turns into a brilliant stage master.
The characters make their entries and exits at the right time, deliver their lines with panache, and keep the reader hanging on every word. The comedy of situation is accompanied by witticisms and puns. At the very end, the reader or the spectator literally has no idea how time flew.
Oscar Wilde: a Fresh and Constant Writing Inspiration
Whether you learned about this famous writer in school, as part of your curriculum, or you stumbled upon one of his books, one thing is certain. You probably won’t be able to forget about Oscar Wilde and his unique style. Maybe you were prompted to start writing stories after reading his plays.
At any rate, Oscar Wilde remains a role model in writing even 120 years after his death. What his life and work teaches is simple: be true to yourself, never be afraid to experiment with new styles and never remain stuck in your comfort zone.
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