The Doer of Good


Oscar Wilde’s poem “The Doer of Good” centres on an individual, believed to be Christ coming back to earth and examining what has happened to the people he has saved. He discovers that they have not used this chance of redemption to do great things or to better themselves. They have simply continued to sin and have squandered this gift. Each time Christ questions the individuals as to why they live like this they respond by asking him how else should they live or how else should they act? Wilde seems to be suggesting that human beings cannot help the way they are. They are designed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Maybe that is why Wilde took such an interest in Catholicism throughout his life. Perhaps he believed that people would need forgiveness for their flaws time and time again because that is the way we are made.  The poem ends with a question and does not provide the answer for the reader. Like many aspects of Wilde’s writing and of his character the reader is left to wondering. In Declan Kilberd’s essays “The London Exiles: Wilde and Shaw” and “Oscar Wilde: The Artist as Irishman” Kilberd examines the contradictory nature of Wilde’s character.

He looks at the way in which Wilde plays with his Irishness, wanting sometimes to shirk it off and others to embrace it. On the one hand he seemed to be glad to escape to England and create a life very different to that of his childhood. However when asked about his nationality he remarked “The Saxons took our lands from us and made them destitute but we took their language and added new beauties to it” (Kilberd 35). Much of Wilde’s work questions the stereotypes placed on the English and Irish people. Wilde has received a lot of criticism for his indecisive attitude towards nationality and the way in which he seems to move back and forth between the English and Irish sensibilities, never really choosing one identity over the other. Perhaps just like in “The Doer of Good” Wilde is asking his readers: “How else should I live?” (Holland 900).


Works Cited

Merlin, Holland. “The Doer of Good” Oscar Wilde Introduced by Merlin Holland, Somerset: Harper Collins Publishers, 2003. Print

Declan, Kilberd. “Oscar Wilde – The Artist as Irishman” Inventing Ireland, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1995. Print

Declan, Kilberd. “The London Exiles: Wilde and Shaw” The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Derry: Field Day Publications, 1991. Print


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