Monday, July 13, 2009
Autobiographical features of TBRG
Wilde was uniquely qualified to write TBRG because of his experiences in Reading Prison. He draws on these experiences when describing the cell as a "foul and dark latrine" with the "fetid breathe of living Death" pervading the jail, the inmates "each in his separate Hell." Wilde places himself as a narrator who identifies with the poem's subject, with whom he describes himself as "two doomed ships that pass in storm." Despite the fact that Wilde is eventually released, he encountered his death when he met Bosie. That phrase augurs that Wilde will not be as productive in his art as he was before his prison stay.
Wilde inserts into the poem his personal story when he states "For he who live more lives than one/More deaths than one must die." Wilde lived many lives. He had a literary career before his marriage, had a married life that produced two children, had a secret life that altered his married life and led to his relationship with Bosie, and established his literary fame with his plays of the 1890s. Each of these lives died when he went to prison, as he was cut off from the rest of the world. Only his relationship with Bosie was reestablished once he left prison. Wilde felt the weight of these deaths, which were responsible for the fact that this ballad was the only work he produced after he served his sentence.
Wilde wrote "I know not whether Laws be right/Or whether Laws be wrong." These lines challenge the nature of his conviction. Though homosexuality was illegal in England, Wilde questions not only the law but also the harshness of his punishment. But Wilde uses a premediated murder, though beautifully drawn, to illustrate that the laws may be too harsh, which challenges the reader and goes against his natural senses. While the poem is written to honor CTW, it also allows Wilde to criticize the judicial system as well as prison conditions, all while serving as a cathartic experience for Wilde himself.