In this article, I’ll share my personal opinion on some of the best books written by the renowned Irish playwright and author, Oscar Wilde. His works are celebrated for their wit, humor, and exploration of societal norms.
Oscar Wilde, born in Dublin, Ireland, on October 16, 1854, was a prolific playwright, poet, and author known for his remarkable contributions to English literature. His works are celebrated not only for their comedic brilliance but also for their incisive social commentary, making him a prominent figure of the late 19th-century Aesthetic Movement.
Wilde’s journey from his early education at Trinity College, Dublin, to his time at Magdalen College, Oxford, laid the foundation for his intellectual prowess and his passion for aesthetics, beauty, and art. His writings, characterized by their satirical humor and paradoxical wit, have left an indelible mark on the literary landscape.
Table of Contents
1. The Picture of Dorian Gray
“The Picture of Dorian Gray” is perhaps Oscar Wilde’s most famous novel, published in 1890. It tells the story of Dorian Gray, a young and handsome man who has a portrait painted by the talented artist Basil Hallward. Dorian’s wish for eternal youth and beauty leads him to make a Faustian bargain.
He remains young and beautiful while his portrait ages and bears the consequences of his immoral actions. The novel explores themes of vanity, hedonism, and the corrupting influence of society. Wilde’s sharp wit and commentary on the decadence of the time shine through this gripping tale.
2. The Importance of Being Earnest
“The Importance of Being Earnest” is one of Oscar Wilde’s most famous and enduring plays, first performed in 1895. This witty comedy of manners revolves around the lives of two friends, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, who use the fictitious name “Ernest” to escape their social obligations.
The play is a satirical take on the Victorian era’s obsession with social status, marriage, and respectability. With its clever wordplay, hilarious misunderstandings, and memorable characters, this play remains a timeless classic in the world of theater.
3. The Canterville Ghost
“The Canterville Ghost” is one of Wilde’s shorter works, first published in 1887. This novella combines elements of both horror and comedy. It tells the story of an American family, the Otises, who move into Canterville Chase, an English mansion haunted by the ghost of Sir Simon Canterville.
However, the pragmatic Americans are unimpressed by the ghost’s attempts to scare them, and they instead offer him lessons in how to haunt effectively. The novella is a delightful exploration of cultural differences and a satirical take on the British aristocracy.
4. An Ideal Husband
“An Ideal Husband” is a comedy play written by Oscar Wilde and first performed in 1895. The play centers around Sir Robert Chiltern, a respected member of Parliament, and his wife, Lady Chiltern.
When a woman named Mrs. Cheveley threatens to expose a past indiscretion of Sir Robert’s, the characters grapple with themes of morality, ethics, and political corruption. Wilde’s trademark wit and social commentary are on full display in this play, making it a brilliant exploration of the hypocrisies and moral dilemmas of the upper class.
5. The Happy Prince
“The Happy Prince” is a beloved fairy tale by Oscar Wilde, first published in 1888. It tells the story of a gilded statue of a prince and a swallow who befriend each other. The prince, once a living royal, now stands atop a pedestal adorned with precious jewels.
Together, they embark on a journey to help the poor and suffering in the city, illustrating themes of selflessness and compassion. This poignant and touching tale showcases Wilde’s ability to convey profound messages through enchanting storytelling.
6. Lady Windermere’s Fan
“Lady Windermere’s Fan” is another of Oscar Wilde’s well-known plays, first performed in 1892. The play explores themes of marriage, trust, and societal expectations.
Lady Windermere, a young and morally upright woman, becomes embroiled in a web of gossip and misunderstandings when she suspects her husband of infidelity. Wilde’s sharp wit and clever dialogue drive the narrative, making it a captivating examination of Victorian-era social mores.
These are just a few of the exceptional works by Oscar Wilde, each with its own unique charm and commentary on the society of his time. Wilde’s writing continues to captivate readers and theatergoers alike, making him an enduring literary figure.