Thursday, July 9, 2009
CTW as a Christ figure
Despite the fact that CTW killed his wife, Wilde portrays his crime as something not any worse than that of which every man is guilty.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.
Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.
Yet, Wilde goes further with his portrayal and elevates CTW to a Christ figure. As Alkalay-Gut points out in her essay, the last line quote of above suggests that despite the fact that every man is guilty, CTW, like Christ, suffers punishment for all mankind. "The murderer allowes himself to be punished for a universally shared sin and suffers the most, knowing he is suffering for the others as well." (p. 352) CTW has become the sacrificial lamb chosen to die, a role he embraces by submitting to his fate.
He does not stare upon the air
Through a little roof of glass:
He does not pray with lips of clay
For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
The kiss of Caiaphas.
Instead, he is described as "light" and meditative:
And strange it was to see him pass
With a step so light and gay,
And strange it was to see him look
So wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
Had such a debt to pay.
Being described as having a "debt to pay" shows that he has an obligation to mankind. He is "resolute" and unafraid of death, stating that "he was glad/The hangman's day was near."
Ultimately, therefore, the murder of his wife was an act of love. Alkalay-Gut identifies the juxtaposition of the words "loved" and "murdered" in the opening stanza ("The poor dead woman whom he loved/And murdered in her bed") places murder as "a virtually natural outgrowth of love." Furthermore, Wilde's use of the present tense in the line "Yet each man kills the thing he loves" shows that murder did not result in an end of the love of "the thing." Instead, love has been enhanced by the murder.
The above painting is "Light of the World" (1851-3) by William Holman Hunt