The Hypocrisy Behind Oscar Wilde's Conviction: A Tale of British Victorian Secrecy

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Erika Rebollo Diaz, Class of 2023


Well-known author Oscar Wilde led a life of aesthetic luxury and wrote stories which toed the lines of public decency and morality in the seemingly conservative nineteenth-century British society. Ideals of increased democracy and scientific advancement, modesty, and personal responsibility were flaunted as morals of the Victorian era. This essay explores the underlying reasons that may have led to Oscar Wilde’s trial and conviction in 1895 for the crime of homosexuality. It analyzes evidence towards the possibility that Wilde’s prison sentence may have been the elite classes’ way of maintaining control over public ideas, as Wilde’s power to share new and unexpected ideas through his unpunished existence posed a threat to the societal order of Victorian society. Wilde’s breaking of public molds was dangerous to the status quo, as his flow of ideas had the potential of inspiring oppressed members of society into demanding greater democracy and access to services which were exclusive to the elite as a result of their socioeconomic status. This essay also explores the tragic parallelism between author Oscar Wilde and his main character Dorian Gray in The Picture of Dorian Gray, as Wilde’s very own literary warnings seem to come alive in the outcome of his trials and incarceration.

Comments from Mentors

Erika is a sophisticated writer who is able to untangle complex ideas and weave together a cogent and beautifully-crafted argument. She writes masterfully, inviting the reader to explore new perspectives on issues that matter.

Dr. Wendy Williams

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John V. Roach Honors College