The Closet Conservative

Oscar Wilde’s Inadvertent Adherence to Traditional Gender Roles

  • Rachel Cote, Mentor University of Mary Washington
  • Chris Foss, Mentor University of Mary Washington


Typically considered a proto-feminist, Wilde occasionally lets slip a conservative ideology in his adherence to traditional gender binaries within the confines of the romantic sphere. The internalized binary set Wilde most heavily employs in certain writings relates to Artifice/Reality, where men are associated with Artifice and women with Reality. In specific scenes of The Picture of Dorian Gray, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde explores romantic dynamics under the duress of the genders' diverging preference for elements of deception and artificiality in heteronormative romantic relationships. This scheme inherently reinforces the patriarchy and sexism of the Victorian age by the nature of its engendered roles. When a couple's conflict reaches a detente or conclusion, the men tend to regain the position of control in the relationship, serving to simultaneously restore Victorian ideals of male dominance and female adherence to morality, complicating Wilde’s reputation as a proto-feminist.

May 1, 2016
How to Cite
COTE, MENTOR, Rachel; FOSS, MENTOR, Chris. The Closet Conservative. Metamorphosis, [S.l.], may 2016. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 20 june 2024.