Which Of These Victorian Beliefs Did Oscar Wilde Openly Challenge

The 19th century was a period of unprecedented wealth and technological advancement, and along with it came a wave of moral values and beliefs, particularly in Europe. As such, the period saw a number of prominent literary figures, such as Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde, actively challenging the values and ideas of their time. Of all of them, it is Oscar Wilde who is arguably remembered most for his open challenge of various Victorian beliefs.

Wilde is best known for his plays, the most iconic of which is The Importance of Being Earnest, which uses satire to make fun of the upper classes and their adherence to what Wilde saw as outmoded and outdated values. He was also renowned for his philosophical writings, which espoused a unique blend of nihilism and aestheticism, that rejected traditional Christian morality and championed individual freedom. In his works, Wilde openly challenged a range of Victorian beliefs, such as the importance of marriage and fidelity, the sanctity of the family, the power of money and the notion of hierarchy.

Wilde was particularly outspoken in his criticism of the double standards of the Victorian upper classes, which allowed men to cheat and lead a liberated lifestyle, while condemning women to a life of chastity and servitude. He was also fiercely critical of the repression of the lower classes and the favoritism displayed towards the wealthy. His criticism of Victorian society was so strong that it led to him being prosecuted for gross indecency, a draconian law that sought to punish those not deemed to abide by mainstream morality.

In addition to these topics, Oscar Wilde also took an active stance against social Darwinism, a theory popular at the time which promoted the notion that individuals and societies should be judged by their actions. Wilde was critical of this theory, believing that it removed the importance of personal responsibility and gave rise to the idea that some individuals could be superior to others. He argued that everyone should be judged equally, regardless of their social status, and advocated for a society in which the differences between the classes were reduced.

Through his works, Wilde openly challenged many of the Victorian values of the time, and his ideas have continued to be relevant and influential today. His work was a major influence on the development of modernist literature and his ideas about individual freedom and responsibility remain relevant in our current society. It is this legacy that ensured that, more than a century after his death, Oscar Wilde is still remembered for his outspoken challenge of the Victorian establishment.

Victorian Views On Marriage And Sexuality

The Victorian period was a time of strict moral values and taboos surrounding marriage, sexuality and gender roles. The society was deeply conservative and considered such matters to be private affairs and thus did not allow individuals to discuss them openly. Marriage was viewed as a form of contractual agreement between two families rather than a union between two individuals, while pre-marital and extra-marital relationships were heavily frowned upon. Oscar Wilde was critical of these beliefs, arguing that marriage should not be based solely on financial gain, but should be a union between two individual who were genuinely in love. He also argued against the repression of sexuality and embraced the importance of allowing individuals to have freedom over their own bodies and sexual identities.

Wilde also challenged the idea that men and women should have different roles in society. He was one of the few voices of his time who suggested that the genders should be equal. He denounced the double standards over misconduct and condemned the patriarchal society that saw men as superior to women. His views on inequality and gender roles were particularly radical considering the times and had a major influence on the development of feminist thought. In this way, Wilde’s challenge of Victorian beliefs about gender and sexuality was instrumental in the development of modern attitudes towards them.

Finally, Wilde shared a more radical viewpoint on monogamous relationships, believing in the importance of open relationships. He argued that individuals should be free to choose the type of relationships they wanted and should not be bound by traditional notions of fidelity. His ideas on monogamy were an open challenge to the Victorian beliefs about marriage and sexuality, and continue to be highly controversial to this day.

Victorian Views On Class Structure

The Victorian Era was typified by rigid class divisions, with the upper and middle classes enjoying a life of luxury and privilege, while the lower classes were forced to live in poverty and squalor. These divisions were rigidly enforced by the law and members of the lower classes had few legal rights and were treated with contempt by the upper and middle classes. Oscar Wilde was highly critical of these disparities and in his writings, he condemned the favoritism that the upper classes were shown by the legal system. He also criticised the cultural norms that saw the working classes as inferior and argued that everyone should be recognised and treated equally regardless of their social background. In his play, The Importance of Being Earnest, he further satirises the class systems, ridiculing the upper echelons of society for their superficiality and lack of empathy.

Wilde’s views on class distinctions were particularly bold, reflecting his own experiences as a member of upper class society yet still feeling like an outsider due to his homosexuality and his views on traditional values. His criticism of the class system and the way it was enforced through the law and cultural norms had a major influence on the development of the labour and socialist movements, and his ideas continue to reverberate today in societies around the world.

Victorian Views On Science And Religion

The Victorian period was an age of scientific advancement, with great leaps being made in the fields of medicine, engineering, biology and chemistry. At the same time, traditional religion was an important fixture of society, with most people subscribing to one faith or another. Oscar Wilde was highly critical of the influence of religion in the public sphere, believing that it was something that should be kept private and personal. He also rejected religious doctrines in favour of a more scientific approach to life, believing that reason should be used to form beliefs and opinions. In this way, Wilde was an early advocate of the scientific method, and his views were an open challenge to the traditional religious beliefs of the time.

Wilde was also critical of the increasing encroachment of science in everyday life, believing that it should not be used to control or manipulate individuals. He argued that science should be used to better the lives of people, rather than just serving the interests of the powerful. He also believed that scientific discoveries should be used to free individuals from oppressive social structures and norms, rather than reinforcing them. In this way, he was an early pioneer of an alternative view of scientific progress, one which emphasised human welfare and freedom over the interests of the elite.

Victorian Views On Education

The Victorian period saw a great expansion of the educational system, particularly in the form of public schools and universities. These institutions promoted a very rigid curriculum which focused heavily on ancient Greek and Latin, and memorisation of facts. This system of education was seen as beneficial for molding the latest generation of upper class citizens and preparing them for the privileged life ahead of them. Oscar Wilde was highly critical of this system, believing that it was soulless and devoid of creativity. He argued that education should be used to foster the imagination and allow children to think for themselves. He believed that this would empower the individual and enable them to make their own decisions, rather than conforming to prescribed moral values and beliefs.

In this way, Wilde openly challenged the Victorian attitudes towards education, advocating instead for an approach that valued creativity and self-expression. His views were in stark contrast to the elitist attitudes of the time, and he argued that education should be accessible to all and not just limited to the privileged. In his play, The Importance of Being Earnest, he satirises the education system, mocking the superficiality of upper class culture. His views on education and their importance in forming the individual had a major influence on the development of educational thought, and his ideas continue to be relevant in our current society.

Victorian Views On Fashion

Fashion was an important part of the Victorian era, and people were expected to abide by strict codes of dressing. Women and men alike were expected to dress in a way that was demure and conservative, with men wearing suits and women donning corsets and ankle-length dresses. Oscar Wilde was an outspoken critic of these conventions, believing strongly in self-expression through fashion. He believed that people should be free to dress however they wanted, and he experimented with a number of different styles throughout his life. In the 1890s, he even developed the aesthetic of dandyism, a style of dress which emphasised the importance of individuality and self-expression.

In this way, Wilde openly challenged the expectations and conventions of the time. He argued that fashion should be used as a form of self-expression, rather than as a tool to conform to society’s norms. His views on fashion had a major influence on the development of modern fashion, and to this day his legacy continues to inspire designers around the world.

Victorian Views On Wealth And Power

The Victorian period was a time of great wealth and power for the upper classes, who held ownership of the vast majority of the wealth and exerted their influence over the rest of society. This level of inequality was socially accepted and legalised by the law, and the same rules did not apply to the lower classes. Oscar Wilde was fiercely critical of this situation and he believed that wealth and power should not be concentrated in so few hands. He argued that everyone should have access to the same resources, and that power and wealth should be spread more evenly throughout society.

Wilde was also critical of the way in which the wealthy and powerful sought to manipulate public opinion. He argued that the upper classes had a moral obligation to use their influence and power for the benefit of society, rather than to advance their own interests. This notion of noblesse oblige, as it is known, has become a cornerstone of modern society, and Wilde’s views on the power of wealth and its potential for manipulation were instrumental in its development.

In this way, Oscar Wilde was a pioneering modern figure who openly challenged the Victorian attitudes towards wealth and power. His views have been influential in shaping our current understanding of the responsibilities of the wealthy and powerful, and of the importance of equality and fairness in society.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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