Oscar Wilde is one of the world’s greatest writers. Born in Ireland in the mid 1800’s, Wilde is most famously known for his wit (LiteratureClassics). Jane Elgee, Wilde’s mother was also known as a great writer of verse and prose and probably one who had a great influence on her son. Wilde was also known for being homosexual and along with legal battles was imprisoned for two years because of his sexual preference (LiteratureClassics). He liked to poke fun at other undergraduates at University by ridiculing manly sports, wearing his hair unusually long, and decorating his room with flowers and feathers. Oscar was a driving force in the aesthetic movement and preached the subject of “art for art’s sake”, (LiteratureClassics). With such a vibrant personality and outspokenness Oscar Wilde’s Phases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young is the specific topic of this analysis.
The title of the passage identifies the particular kind of reader the author aimed the work at. While at University, Wilde often made fun of other undergraduates for living up to what society expected of them and for this reason he’s aimed the passage at the “young” as a means to combine his wit with writing. It’s a reflection of his thoughts at that time in his life. The response expected from the passage may be two fold. Some may see it as humor and lighthearted, while others may see it as a more serious side of Wilde. He very well may be poking fun at society, but there is a real truth to the passage underneath the obvious humor. You get the sense as if he’s telling you and not asking you to believe what he’s saying. Being a homosexual in the 1800’s is a backdrop for this prose and the reality of not fitting societies “norm” is what Wilde may be trying to convey to us.
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Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young, seems to have a more informal tone. The passage is well written, not incoherent. If you really think about what Wilde is saying you realize that there is a deeper meaning behind each statement. Studying his background and knowing what he believed in and wanted for his own life helps make this deeper meaning more evident. His use of clear, precise diction is also evident. The informality of the passage is also clear in the words Oscar uses. We see this in the use of expressive words, rarely technical ones. Instead of using the words rude or offensive he chooses to use vulgarity, which sounds harsher. Words are bold, stern and very direct. There is a spoken discourse in this selection and the wording is concrete to get the point across. The connotation, where a single word is used to represent much more in the mind, gives a greater understanding as to what the author is comparing. This leaves the reader with a sense that Wilde knows these things to be true without any doubt. The use of statements and small phrases instead of a more narrative prose speaks to the informality of the passage as well. It makes more of an impact when something is stated plainly.
The language used in this selection is not pretentious and thus creates a better relationship between the author and reader. The selection as a whole is a metaphor for Oscar’s life. It casts a grim spell when the reader looks at significant words in the passage such as; artificial, dullness, vulgarity, shallow and premature. Obscure, wickedness and inartistic are more examples.
Wilde uses Greek mythology in his selection and comments that Apollo who killed Hyacinth has passed away himself but it’s the greater that still lives on. Nero was an Emperor of Rome who was dominated by his mother and known to be cruel and irresponsible, and Narcissus, a young man who pined away in love with his own image, will always be with us. The meaning of this has significance metaphorically in that one hated himself and the other in love with his self and neither of the two lived a perfect life. They were in the eye of society and it was expected of both to live up to their names and neither did. In saying that the first purpose in life is to be artificial has much relevance where most people are born with expectations from their loved ones already in place and most people are never really free to be who they are naturally. As for the second duty in life, no one really knows what the greater meaning is of why we are here. Life isn’t meant to be perfect, be improbable Wilde says and to love one’s self as Narcissus did is the start of a life long romance.
Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young had an impact on me. As I lie awake at night thinking about what Wilde is trying to have me understand by reading his passage was a monumental task. One interpretation that is a more general one for the passage is that life is not always what is seems. What we know to be true may not always be. The passage is timeless, and society never really changes much from century to century. Wilde proved that he understood society and was able to interpret it into a more humorous outlook that allows the reader to take the meaning of the passage away with them. Wilde invokes deep thought from his readers and allows them to smile about society and how perfect we sometimes all try to be from the selves that we truly are.
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