Calvinism and ideas of predestination in “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”

I found myself really enjoying Wilde’s short stories that we read for this week, particularly “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime.” I think I found this one really striking because it made me think about the topic of religion and Wilde and the Aesthetes’ relationship to it. 

When Lord Arthur is told by the palm reader that he will commit a murder, he feels as though his fate is sealed, and that there is no way to escape it. He is destined to commit a grave sin. This reminded me of Calvinism and the idea of predestination, or that no matter what humans do in life, some are meant to go to heaven and some are meant to go to hell. This realization drives Arthur Savile into a panicked state of planning to murder his extended relative(s) in order to fulfill his destiny and move on with his life. I like how Wilde toys with comedy as the first attempt of murder fails, and his second becomes further comically tortuous to Savile as nothing seems to be working. It is only when Savile kills the palm reader that he can really move on. It is as though the palm reader is a representation of God or a leader in the Calvinist church, he is whoever is telling people that their fate is set. And, comically, the palm reader is a fraud! As though Calvinism itself is a sham.

This story indirectly showcases the ideas that Wilde had about religion. As we learned in class, Wilde believes in Catholicism, and other Aesthetes did too. But, I am still unsure exactly why Catholicism appeals to him. Is it because of free will… the freedom of agency in doing what pleases you? Is it because he sees similarities in the transformative power of the artist, like the transformative power of Christ? Is it because he replaces Christ with art? Is it a genuine spiritual connection that appreciates the ritualistic nature of Catholicism? I still have a lot of questions about Wilde’s relationship with religion that I look forward to hopefully answering as we continue reading.

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