Oscar Wilde's characters are the people of high society. He gives some typical features to his characters, but refuses the most famous way of that time to settle accounts with the enemies through the literary characters.Wilde's heroes have no prototypes in real life. He named them by places' titles where he worked writing these comedies. The moral conflict structure of Wilde's plays is usually presented by means of action suspense. The first act of "Lady Windermere's Fan" is almost all consisting of the saloon talks. But Wilde considers it to be the perfect act. These talks are full of witty fights with the help of wonderful epigrams. "The Importance of Being Earnest" - his masterpiece - was written without any pretension to the psychological depth. It is the light and merry farce - comedy. All its intrigues are based on the homonyms (for example: "Earnest" - adjective means "serious"; and the personal name - Ernest). The delicate humour and comical situation provide it for the longevity on the stage.
Oscar Wilde tried to create the fame of the great aesthete. His speech was full of paradoxical judgements. Here are some examples taken from different plays:
- "Conscience and cowardice are really the same things. Conscience is the trade name of the firm. That is all.";
- "Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose";
- "Men marry because they are tired; women because they are curious. Both are disappointed.";
- "Life is far too important a thing to talk seriously about it.";
- "A man who allows himself to be convinced by an argument is a thoroughly unreasonable person"; and many others.
In 1895 Wilde was at the peak of his career and had three hit plays running at the same time. At the same year he found himself under the trial. As a result Wilde became involved in a hopeless legal dispute and was sentenced to two years in prison at hard labour. After his release in 1897, Wilde published "The Ballad of Reading Gaol", a poem of considerable but unequal power. This poem gave the impression that he was again going to produce works worthy of his talents. But it was his swan song…
For the last three years he had lived abroad. Ruined in health, finances and creative energy, but with his characteristic wit, he died in France in 1990. But the voices of Wilde's brilliant plays continue to be heard until well on in the present century. Indeed, they are still occasionally heard today. It was not the exaggeration that these plays were called the wittiest comedies of the nineteenth century. And it is true that they will have their great fame for many generations.
1. Some notes on style and stylistics.
The word "style" is derived from the Latin word "stylus" which meant a short stick sharp at one end and flat at the other used by the Romans for writing on wax tablets. Now the word "style" has a very broad meaning. We speak of style in architecture, painting, clothes, behaviour, literature, speech, etc. The style of any period is the result of a variety of complex and shifting pressures and influences. The way we think and speak modifies the way we write, or the way other write, influences our thought and speech. There is the constant interaction between life and literature. Books reflect the shape of our experience, but our experience of life is also shaped by the books we read. In every age the major writers help to shape the thinking and feeling, and hence the style, of their contemporaries.
Raymond Chapman, the author of "A Short Way to Better English", says that "A good style of writing has three qualities, which may be described as accuracy, ease and grace."7 There are always three influences that will exert their pressure on a writer's style. One is his own personality, his own way of thinking and feeling that determines his mode of expression. The second is the occasion on which he is writing, the particular purpose that directs his pen at the moment of writing, so that the same man may employ different styles on different occasions. The third is the influence of the age in which he lives. In other words, a writer's style is his individual and creative choice of the resources of the language. The limitations upon the choice are superimposed by the writer's period, his genre and his purpose. Since style is something ingrained in writing, it follows that a man's way of writing will be an expression of his personality and his way of looking at life. This explains the famous and much-quoted definition of style given by Buffon, a French writer and naturalist of the eighteenth century. He wrote: "Le style, c'est l'homme meme." ("Style, it is the man himself.")8
Stylistics, sometimes called linguo-stylistics, is a branch of general linguistics. It has now more or less definitely outlined. It deals mainly with two interdependent tasks:
a) the investigation of the inventory of special language media which by their ontological features secure the desirable effect of the utterance;
b) certain types of texts (discourse) which due to the choice and arrangement of language means are distinguished by the pragmatic aspect of the communication.
The two objectives of stylistics are clearly discernible as two separate fields of investigation. The inventory of special language media can be analysed and their ontological features revealed if presented in a system in which the co-relation between the media becomes evident.
The types of texts can be analysed if their linguistic components are presented in their interaction, thus, revealing the unbreakable unity and transparency of constructions of a given type. The types of texts that are distinguished by the pragmatic aspect of the communication are called functional styles of language (FS). The special media of language which secure the desirable effect of the utterance are called stylistic devices (SD) and expressive means (EM).*
The first field of investigation, i.e. SDs and EMs, necessarily touches upon such general language problems as the aesthetic function of language, synonymous ways of rendering one and the same idea, emotional colouring in language, the interrelation between language and thought, the individual manner of an author in making use of language and a number of other issues.
The second field, i.e. functional styles, cannot avoid discussion of such most general linguistic issues as oral and written varieties of language, the notion of literary language, the constituents of texts larger than the sentence, the