Sensationalism and Satire

We have previously discussed some similarities between Wilde’s work and The Woman in White, the sensationalist novel by Wilkie Collins, and “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” stood out to me exactly for that reason. The story definitely has the feel and themes of sensationalism, including several failed murder attempts with a variety of weapons and near misses with the police. But I think the reason the two feel so similar is not these plot points, but the voice of the narrator, Lord Arthur, and his quest to marry his lady love, Sybil Merton. This chase felt eerily similar to Walter Hartright’s goal to marry Laura Fairlie in The Woman in White. Both men have a certain stubbornness about their goals, and both have a wiliness to do illegal things in order to accomplish them. In Watler’s case, breaking Laura out of an asylum, and in Arthur’s, murdering Mr. Podgers.

However, in “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” it appears that Wilde is satirizing sensationalism to some end. It is Arthur himself who decides he needs to murder someone else in order to marry Sybil, nothing else in the greater world of the story requires it. He believes that he must murder because he believes that the fortune that Mr. Podgers gives him is unavoidable, and he wants to protect Sybil from his murderous acts. The irony here is that in order to save his marriage’s future wellbeing, Arthur decides to start his marriage on a bed of murder and lies, not to mention that the whole scenario is based on the outcome of one palm reading! This is much different than the narrative of A Woman in White, where Walter, although he may not be perfect, is attacking a legitimate problem facing both his own goal of marrying Laura, but a problem for women at large. I find this twist in genre fascinating and am curious about how it would’ve been viewed by readers during Wilde’s time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *