Discuss the sexuality in Oscar Wilde's works The Importance of Being Earnest & The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Picture of Dorian Gray and  The Importance of Being Earnest are filled with innuendos. We know that Wilde's own personal life was often reflected in his character. We also know that he was sexually ambivalent and The Picture of Dorian Gray was as disgraceful to him as it was popular.

The relationship between Basil and Dorian was described by Basil himself a "far romancer feeling that one usually feels for a friend". The beauty of Dorian Gray was admired so profoundly by Basil that  he felt that he had "said too much" when he painted him.

Lord Henry was obviously alluring Dorian to open up to his darker and more debauched self- and he did. He visited opium dens, and perhaps even did more than just court Sybil Vane, who then he abandoned to her suicide.

We also know that the obscure character of James who came to burn Basil's dead body at Dorian's request did it only for fear of becoming blackmailed by a "letter" from his days at Oxford- this is exactly what happened to Wilde- a homosexual letter found in a suit of clothes of Lord Alfred Douglas brought about his fall.

The same type of dandy is found in Algernon in the Importance of Being Earnest. Although we do not get direct references to about his sexuality, the fact is that his act of "Bunburying" has a connotation of leading a double life,  since it lets him go around doing whatever he wants.

There is a hint of innuendo in the feelings of Gwendolyn and Cecily: They certainly are not pruddish nor lose, but they do instill a feeling in the reader that they could be capable of "marrying often".


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The Picture of Dorian Gray

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