Comedy in “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”

When I started reading Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, I thought that this short story would be mainly focused on the theme of sorrow caused by the inevitability of murder and the supernatural loss of free will (Especially after this line on page 173: “he had become conscious of the terrible mystery of Destiny, of the awful meaning of Doom”). However, I found this story to be much more comedic than I previously had expected. Arthur’s strange sense of duty to the laws of chiromancy and his repeated attempts at murder were so ridiculous that I wholeheartedly agreed with Lady Windermere’s last exclamation (a response to Arthur’s assertion that chiromancy had given him Sybil’s love) that she had “never heard such nonsense in all [her] life” (192).

Much of the comedy seemed to come from the very character of Arthur. Wilde describes him as a man with “common sense;” however, Arthur’s actions seem to prove otherwise. I was shocked when he immediately accepted Mr. Podgers’ prediction that he would eventually kill a distant relative. This fortune teller did coincidently make eerily correct physic readings about some of the guests, but their validity could have easily come from doing prior background research about every person in attendance – rather than from an otherworldly source. In fact, Windermere even alludes to this possibility by calling Podgers “a dreadful imposter” later in the story (192). I would have expected Arthur to at least harbor a few doubts about the supposed inevitability of the murder (especially if he was rational with “common sense”); however, “life to him meant action, rather than thought,” and he impulsively decides to kill one of his relatives, so that he will not have to do this while married (178). Furthermore, when Arthur actually does think, he seems delusional as he even hilariously considers his plan of murder to be “his self-sacrifice,” which is ironic because he is not the one that will be dying. The above factors can be summarized as Arthur’s refusal to critically think about his situation, and this failure leads to many foolish and hastily planned murder attempts, which definitely heighten the comedy.

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