chapter  2
12 Pages

THEORIZING STYLE: THE ESSAYS

Gaol-

In the world of Hunstanton Chase the 'violent hierarchy' of the natural and the unnatural, the authentic and the inauthentic, the ethical and the aesthetic, is repeatedly overturned: the first movement of the deconstructive process. In this sense, A Woman of No Importance can be said to conform to the artistic credo Wilde both outlined and demonstrated in his public defence of Dorian Gray. In The Soul of Man Wilde said that delightful work could be done under burlesque conditions, drawing on popular forms, and his deployment of farce in An Ideal Husband puts that theory into practice. Lord Illingworth who gives it the most elegant and telling expression in his earlier sartorial advice to Gerald Arbuthnot: People nowadays are so absolutely superficial that they don't understand the philosophy of the superficial. The 'ethical beauty' of the play is that Illingworth's stylish pragmatism is vanquished by a moral code which has all the authenticity and purity of a buttonhole.