Event Title

I will give you anything you like to ask for it”: Wilde’s Marxist Socialism in The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest

Poster Number

066

Faculty Mentor

Leslie Bickford, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of English

Location

Richardson Ballroom (DIGS)

Start Date

20-4-2018 2:15 PM

End Date

20-4-2018 4:15 PM

Description

Through an intertextual Marxist reading of the play The Importance of Being Earnest and the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, this paper demonstrates that both works serve as social commentary for the anxiety caused by capitalism following the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England. The length of the novel allows for a better developed depiction of the same commentary. Dorian Gray acts as an illustration of the anxiety felt by both ends of the socioeconomic strata. Crafted as a reversal of exemplary ideals, Lord Henry acts as capitalism incarnate in its purest sense: Henry wishes to buy Basil’s painting of Dorian, as he would any other product; Henry also objectifies Sibyl Vane as a consumer good, suggesting her value as an actress is diminished. Servants play a minimal role: in Earnest, Lane acts only as the set-up for an absurd reversal of class structure; in Dorian Gray, servants are mentioned, but rarely by name, painting the dehumanization that the bourgeoisie imposes on the proletariat. Representing the working class, Sibyl Vane is treated as a consumer good by Henry in his dialogue to Dorian, by Dorian himself after she performs badly on stage, and by her mother to ensure her future prosperity. In Dorian Gray, underclass women are objectified, while in Earnest, the upper-class women are ridiculously selective in choosing a suitor. It is through the repetition of displaying the oppressive nature of capitalism and the depiction of both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum that Wilde offers the oppressed demographics a voice in Victorian society.

Previously Presented/Performed?

Big South Undergraduate Research Symposium (BigSURS), Lynchburg, Virginia, April 2018

Course Assignment

ENGL 300 – Bickford

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Apr 20th, 2:15 PM Apr 20th, 4:15 PM

I will give you anything you like to ask for it”: Wilde’s Marxist Socialism in The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest

Richardson Ballroom (DIGS)

Through an intertextual Marxist reading of the play The Importance of Being Earnest and the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, this paper demonstrates that both works serve as social commentary for the anxiety caused by capitalism following the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England. The length of the novel allows for a better developed depiction of the same commentary. Dorian Gray acts as an illustration of the anxiety felt by both ends of the socioeconomic strata. Crafted as a reversal of exemplary ideals, Lord Henry acts as capitalism incarnate in its purest sense: Henry wishes to buy Basil’s painting of Dorian, as he would any other product; Henry also objectifies Sibyl Vane as a consumer good, suggesting her value as an actress is diminished. Servants play a minimal role: in Earnest, Lane acts only as the set-up for an absurd reversal of class structure; in Dorian Gray, servants are mentioned, but rarely by name, painting the dehumanization that the bourgeoisie imposes on the proletariat. Representing the working class, Sibyl Vane is treated as a consumer good by Henry in his dialogue to Dorian, by Dorian himself after she performs badly on stage, and by her mother to ensure her future prosperity. In Dorian Gray, underclass women are objectified, while in Earnest, the upper-class women are ridiculously selective in choosing a suitor. It is through the repetition of displaying the oppressive nature of capitalism and the depiction of both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum that Wilde offers the oppressed demographics a voice in Victorian society.